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SAP upgrades tools for business software

The company says its ABAP Objects combines its ABAP/4 for developing large-scale applications with object programming.

In a move to lessen the complexity of its core business software package, Germany-based enterprise software maker SAP today announced an upgrade to tools for customizing its business software package, R/3 4.0.

The next generation of the ABAP programming language, ABAP Objects, is the combination of the company's ABAP/4 for developing large-scale applications with object programming, the company said at its Technology Days Conference in Karlsruhe, Germany. ABAP Objects also will better support Microsoft's OLE compound document standard for communications between Windows desktop applications, the company said.

ABAP Objects will be part of the R/3 4.0 release, due to ship later this year.

ABAP Objects uses a single inheritance object model and provides support for object features such as encapsulation, polymorphism, and inheritance. It includes a set of individual- and team-development tools, and also provides cross-platform application portability. To support business application requirements, it also includes publish, subscribe, and event trigger mechanisms.

ABAP Objects is part of the company's Business Framework strategy to evolve R/3 into a set of independent yet integrated components while providing an open platform for integrating third-party units, the company said.

"It is the third and final stage of our Business Framework," said Gunther Polkmit, SAP's vice president of marketing. The first stage came with the release of R/3 3.0 in 1995, followed by the object description qualities of BAPI (business application programming interfaces) in release 3.1. "ABAP Objects is a full-blown object-oriented language?We now have the three ingredients to further the Business Framework strategy."

The Business Framework includes step-by-step evolution to object technology for R/3, starting first with an object model followed by continued enhancements to underlying technology.

With ABAP Objects, analysts say SAP has shown it is willing to ease the complexity of its product by opening up the software package to IT professionals either at the corporate customer site or those who are implementing the product for someone.

"They've made progress release by release," said Henry Morris, a senior analyst with International Data Corporation. "The application comes with tools to model to a particular company's needs, and a development environment they can also build on."

Giga Information Group analyst Byron Miller said that ABAP Object also will help R/3 customers save some cash.

"It will help to drive down cost of ownership because it will simplify implementation," he said.

The ABAP announcement comes on the same day the company outlined its support for Microsoft OLE in R/3 4.0, which will allow customers to use a wide range of desktop applications such as Microsoft Office, Corel Office, Lotus SmartSuite, and Visio, along with R/3.

Through a combination of enhancements to the user interface--formerly known as SAPGUI--new interfaces within the R/3 application, and support for Microsoft OLE, any OLE-enabled desktop application can be integrated with R/3 business process and data.

SAP also said it endorsed Microsoft's COM (Component Object Model) for connecting computer programs, and demonstrated software of its own that lets PC programs communicate with software that controls business transactions.

The SAP software--the DCOM Compact Connector--would make it easier for companies to take orders and execute transactions over the Internet, SAP said.