- Reuters/Beck Diefenbach
On Thursday, Apple announced a new partnership, this time with the world’s largest maker of enterprise business applications, SAP.
SAP is going to develop a bunch of custom business applications for iOS devices, iPads and iPhones, as well as release tools so that SAP’s 2.5-million member global developers can write their own custom iOS apps using Apple’s new programming language, Swift.
In return, Apple gets access to SAP’s enormous worldwide salesforce to help it sell devices to SAP’s roughly 310,000 worldwide customers, most of whom are large enterprise businesses with thousands of employees.
Selling more iPads to businesses is Apple CEO Tim Cook’s main plan for boosting its ongoing lackluster iPad sales. And since iPhone sales have begun to taper off, too, access to an enterprise sales force could be a cure for that, too.
SAP’s flagship product is accounting software known as “enterprise resource planning,” in that it handles everything from ordering raw materials to handling HR needs. SAP has a lot of other software, too, including software that manages mobile devices and software that allows enterprise programmers to write custom mobile apps. In fact, SAP is itself a huge iPad customer, and has been for years.
So on a lot of levels this partnership makes sense. It should be good for SAP because the apps are intended to use SAP’s superfast database called HANA to power them. HANA is SAP’s way to stick it to its arch rival, Oracle, and the company has banked its future on the success of HANA, doing everything from venture funds for startups that use HANA to opening cafes (yes, coffee shops), where HANA startups can mingle.
The apps will run on SAP’s HANA cloud, and that means recurring revenue for SAP in cloud computing, the hot upcoming market where the giant software company desperately needs to grow (just like all of its rivals do).
If all of this sounds familiar, it is. Apple famously fired up a similar agreement with IBM in 2014. Apple also partnered with Cisco in 2015 to help make devices work better on enterprise networks and to gain access to yet another huge salesforce.
Interestingly, Apple chose its new enterprise partner carefully. IBM and SAP are close partners themselves. IBM is a major consultant that sells and supports SAP software. And SAP’s HANA database runs on IBM’s cloud. In markets where SAP doesn’t have its own cloud data center, it uses IBM’s cloud.
While IBM may not be thrilled to share Apple with SAP, the arrangment doesn’t necessarily lock IBM out from consulting work with SAP/iOS apps or from the cloud contracts to host those apps.