SAP, Sharp Go in a Linux, Java Mobile Direction
The applications will be designed using open source operating system Linux and Java-based programming protocols, in an expansion of the companies' support for non-Windows-based software and vendors.
SAP and Sharp said they would be targeting CRM (customer relationship management) systems intended for mobile workers, such as sales personnel and service technicians who work outside of the office. While laptop computers have historically been used to handle such services, the move now is to enable smaller mobile terminal devices for these purposes, the companies said.
Sharp currently manufacturers the Zauras line of PDA's, or personal digital assistants, which contain high-resolution liquid crystal displays and run a mobile version of the Linux operating system. SAP's mobile applications are expected to be installed on future Zauras terminals, and will be billed as faster-running applications.
The companies claim that global demand for real-time mobile communications services is increasing with the market for PDA's alone expected to reach 17 million worldwide, including 1.2 million in Japan.
Sharp also said it would develop middleware in order to enable messaging services to work with a variety of different applications. Both companies are also planning to co-develop mobile personal computers and mobile phones in the future.
The initial focus of the venture will be on the Japanese market with future plans for expansion worldwide. The solutions are expected to soon be available to Japanese customers, and to other customers at some undetermined time in the future.
As a first step, SAP Japan and Sharp will launch cooperative efforts in the Japanese market. Various SAP mobile applications such as mobile sales and mobile service will be mounted on the Zaurus SL-C760 and SL-C750, which are equipped with high-resolution System LCDs and run under the Linux OS, an open development environment, SAP and Sharp said in a statement.
Sharp is increasingly moving its products into the corporate marketplace. On Sharp's enterprise web site it cites a case study with railroad/transport company CSX Transportation with results on the deployment of several hundred Zaurus Linux-based PDA's for use in a variety of federally mandated tests and inspections.
The testing of the Sharp Zaurus PDA's have been running a combination of both open source and proprietary software, which include an embedded Linux OS, GUI framework, Java runtime environment and a full suite of mobile applications. The suite of applications include e-mail, Web browser, gaming, multimedia, PC sync, wireless connectivity and device configuration.
The deal marks yet another company embracing open-source operating systems in the development of enterprise-focused applications. Mobile phone and electronics giant Motorola recently threw its weight behind Linux-based mobile device and software development. Motorola's subsidiary Metrowerks recently rolled out what it is calling "OpenPDA," including software components and development tools for this new generation of Linux-based mobile devices.
The support of major companies like SAP, Sharp and Motorola gives the Linux-based mobile operating system a boost at a time when it is increasingly seen as a threat to Microsoft's proprietary Windows CE mobile device operating system, as well as alternatives offered by VxWorks and Palm.