SAP to release 'Mendocino' for testing

Software developed jointly with Microsoft will link the Office interface with SAP business systems.

Next week customers can begin testing software that links Microsoft's e-mail and calendar programs with SAP's back-office business applications, the companies said.

The new program, code-named Mendocino, has been in development since last spring. It's the first major product the two software titans have built and sold together.

The companies said they plan to ship Mendocino 1.0 to 50 customers and partners on Dec. 23 for testing before its general release in July. The program is designed to let workers use the familiar Microsoft Office interface to access and manipulate budgeting, personnel and billing information that resides in a company's SAP databases.

For instance, managers can view and update detailed budget data from an SAP system using a Microsoft Outlook e-mail attachment. A manager can adjust her budget without leaving the e-mail program, and changes are reflected automatically in a company's SAP budgeting application.

Mendocino also applies to time management. Workers can use a pull-down menu to allocate time spent in meetings--and other events scheduled in their Outlook calendars--to a particular project. Mendocino then updates employee timesheets in SAP. Similarly, employees can enter vacation time in their calendar and the information will be relayed automatically to SAP's human resources system.

By making it easier for workers to access its systems, SAP is betting that Mendocino will result in "a lot more users touching SAP systems," said Sharada Achanta, SAP's senior director of solutions marketing for Mendocino. Since more users usually equates to more licenses, that could be good for SAP's bottom line.

SAP declined to discuss the price and licensing details for Mendocino.

For Microsoft, Mendocino may give Office customers an incentive to upgrade to new versions. The first release requires Office 2003. Later Mendocino versions will likely require Office 12, which is due for release next year.

But the companies need to put a little more meat on the product first, according to AMR Research. "The joint project shows a lot of promise, but the current scope of Mendocino is limited to a few transactions," the IT analyst firm said in a recent report.

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