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SAP launches investment fund, new software

Business software maker announces new versions of flagship software, plus an acquisition and a $125 million investment fund.

ORLANDO, Fla.--SAP on Wednesday announced new versions of its flagship software along with an acquisition and a $125 million investment fund to back partner companies.

At its Sapphire user conference here, the business software company said that it has begun shipping mySAP ERP 2005, a new release of its enterprise relationship management software, along with SAP CRM 2006s, a hybrid product that can run as an on-demand or on-premise application.

To spur development of products that run on its NetWeaver software, SAP said, the company has launched a $125 million fund. NetWeaver links SAP's software to other new and existing business systems within companies.

The fund will complement SAP's existing SAP Venture investment arm, which backs emerging technology.

SAP is hoping to jump-start development of software from partner companies that could help stimulate sales of its own business applications software.

The company may also acquire some of the partners it backs, said Henning Kagermann, SAP's chief executive.

SAP will provide all of the money behind the fund, said Shai Agassi, SAP's product and technology group president. "We will on specific investments bring in venture firms. The time horizon is to look for a 7 year return (on investment) and one or two investment rounds," he said. Agassi said SAP will look to fund companies that address market segments that the company may not currently sell to.

Separately, the company said it has acquired Frictionless Commerce, a Cambridge, Mass.-based maker of on-demand supplier relationship management software. No terms were disclosed. Frictionless Commerce employs approximately 70 people in Cambridge and in London, England. SAP said that it intends to continue operations in these offices. More details will be announced in July when, SAP said, it expects the deal to close.

Earlier on Wednesday, CEO Henning Kagermann said SAP is on track to complete a product revamp by next year. The company in 2003 began an overhaul of its product line to take advantage of a service-oriented architecture (SOA), which analysts say can simplify how software is deployed and used.

"In 2007, the road map will be completed," Kagermann said in a morning keynote. "The advantages (of an SOA) are immediate. We are not speaking percentages here, we are speaking orders of magnitude."

SAP says it expects more than 15,000 attendees at its Sapphire conference this week. The Walldorf, Germany-based company's main rival is Oracle, which in recent years has acquired several business software makers, including PeopleSoft and Siebel Systems. But other competitors have emerged in the software-as-a-service market, including and Microsoft.