SAP’s Oliver Bussmann: ‘There’s only one player for tablets in enterprise – I guarantee Android will change that’

March 1, 2012

Barcelona, Spain – It may not have dominated the headlines at Mobile World Congress, but SAP, the enterprise software maker, and consumer electronics manufacturer Samsung spent considerable time at the show promoting their new relationship, which will see SAP use Samsung's 10.1 Galaxy Tab and Galaxy S II smartphone internally, with its own Sybase Afaria security solution bolted on.

The news is significant because it should mean that Android devices can be used (safely) internally by SAP employees.

To get more on the news and to get some perspective as to the future of Android in enterprise, TabTimes met with Bussmann, and Samsung’s BC Cho, in Barcelona this week, and the two men outlined the benefits of having SAP enterprise software on Samsung tablets and smartphone, and stressed how the move is finally securing the Android platform so that CIOs can now safely welcome bring-your-own device (BYOD) schemes without serious security risks. SAP's Bussmann believes that this new solution has enough about it to compete with Apple in enterprise.

“We’ve already advanced the security features provided by Apple, which provides around 90 features [on the iPad]. Using Afaria on Samsung devices, we are now offering 100 security features, and there will be another 200 features coming in future”, said the SAP CIO, when speaking to TabTimes.

“There’s device encryption in place, device configuration, the ability to define the function of the mobile device down to the lowest level, and even remote monitoring to shut-down and decommission devices. So, really, there are all the tools to manage the entire lifecycle of Android, and in a much more advanced way than Apple.”

Bussmann was in a confident mood, and said that with 500 Android devices now securely supported, there should now be ‘no discussion if Android is safe in enterprise’. The SAP CIO expects the concerns of CIOs, who are often worried about the security risk of allowing personal devices, to be minimized by the knowledge that, through SAP and Samsung, they can manage devices end-to-end, without the risk of losing confidential data.

SAP and Samsung revealed to TabTimes that they first begun discussing an enterprise partnership at the MWC show last year, and SAP, poignantly, added that Samsung is now taking the enterprise market seriously enough to have its own service team in place for collaborating with partner CIOs. “This is something not offered by ‘other providers’”, said Bussmann.

The next step for both companies appears to be trying to promote the collaboration, while advancing the number of enterprise apps. SAP is already pushing this market with its own app store, and said that it is pushing its developer partners to build CRM, sales force and BI apps for Android, and for Samsung devices in particular.

Bussmann spent considerable time promoting Samsung’s ‘beautiful devices’, and said that the combination of a secure Android with a device which is ‘fun to use’ will get business leaders more willing to play with data. “People will become more informed and up to date as a result, so will get a better sense of what is going on in their business. We’re really moving to a real-time mobile enterprise business.”

Samsung’s BC Cho, who is head of the global business enterprise team for mobile communications, said that the firm is already receiving calls by companies, who have heard about the SAP collaboration, and who are ‘dying’ to move their business from desktop to tablets.  Cho admits that there may be some integration work ahead, but said that it will work with partners to support smartphone and tablet deployments.

So, how does the system work? SAP said that the mobile platform will work with different back-ends, including Oracle and IBM, and added that SAP enterprise apps will run on Samsung’s Android devices.

As previously mentioned, the security features are extensive. Moderators will be able to control applications and hardware components, so that the user cannot use the camera, download from Android Marketplace, turn-on Bluetooth connectivity or even make a  phone call.

The same moderator will also be able to push out the precise configuration settings to each device, so that, for instance, a certain division will only be capable of doing functions related to their job role.  Bussman believes that the new partnership is about to create a seismic shift in the industry.

“Android is now coming into the enterprise business, and Samsung and SAP are doing that. Everybody has been waiting for it, because there’s only been one player playing a very dominant role at the moment. I absolutely guarantee that this will change. The other player is very closed off, and there was previously no other choice from a security perspective.”

SAP explained that the process of getting Afaria – now on version 7.0, onto your Samsung tablet is very simple (the user downloads the app from SAP’s online shopping carts, and gets it up and running via an activation code), and said that deployments can range from the small to those of a mass scale. Indeed, SAP – which already has 14,000 iPads in operation in its business – said that it had Afaria 7.0 running on up to 15,000 Samsung tablets at one time, and managed to get it onto 3-4,000 Samsung devices in the space of three to four weeks.

“We see no roadblock to deploying on a massive scale, and it may even be more advanced than deploying PCs. After all, we can now locate the tablets, and shut them down – features not possible with laptops”, said Bussmann.

Samsung, as with establishing this partnership, has recognized the trend of bring-your-own-devices (BYOD) and Cho says that it is ‘really going after that trend’ so SAP and SAP customers can embrace such schemes and manage personally-owned devices.

Before the end of the interview, the attention turned to SAP’s own mobile enterprise store, which could yet have a significant impact on enterprise app adoption and the fortunes of Samsung tablets in business.  Bussmann said that the number of apps currently stand at 50, with the aim of reaching 100 by the end of the year. The most popular applications, as expected, are generally for workflow, Business Intelligence, healthcare and sales.

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