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SAP has some explaining to do at Sapphire

Chris Kanaracus | May 9, 2011
While SAP has spent the past year spinning a vision for on-premises, on-demand and on-device computing, its upcoming Sapphire conference is an opportunity for the vendor to lay out some important specifics on these plans for the thousands expected to attend.

For companies with a mature SAP platform, "it's a good time to optimize," he said.

Wild cards

-- Some will be searching for signs of friction between co-CEOs Jim Hagemann Snabe and Bill McDermott. The two have split focuses, with Snabe closer to product development and McDermott overseeing sales. That hasn't stopped rumors of power-jockeying, although actual public evidence of such is pretty scant.

-- In a related note, the profile of CTO and executive board member Vishal Sikka at the conference will also be scrutinized.

Sikka, who has been referred to as SAP's "third CEO," recently told IDG News Service that while he is very close with the CEOs, he considers his boss to be company founder Hasso Plattner, and that Snabe and McDermott "basically leave [him] alone."

That kind of comment and the fact that Plattner and Sikka are scheduled to deliver a keynote address together at Sapphire will no doubt have speculative tongues wagging about the balance of power at SAP.

-- Oracle CEO Larry Ellison has made a tradition out of pulling a surprise guest onstage during his annual OpenWorld keynote. The list of luminaries has included Billy Joel and Arnold Schwarzenegger. SAP has booked rock icon Sting to entertain Sapphire-goers, but most likely he'll stick to the concert stage.

This leaves an opening for someone more aligned with SAP's core business, and who better than Hewlett-Packard (HPQ) CEO Leo Apotheker?

Sure, Apotheker was forced out as SAP CEO by the company's board last year, leading to the ascendance of McDermott and Snabe, so there might be some lingering tension there. But SAP and HP have always been tight partners -- a bond that is only closer now given Oracle's entrance into the hardware business -- so anything is possible.


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