SAP is demonstrating a beta version of its new hosted midmarket application to select groups at the Cebit trade show in Hanover, Germany.
The application, known internally as A1S, is currently being tested by around 150 customers, says SAP CEO Henning Kagermann following a demonstration of the software Thursday.
No firm date has been set for a commercial launch but general availability is expected in the second half of this year, according to Kagermann.
"This is a completely new model for us," Kagermann says. "We have to ensure that not only the product but also the service are tops."
A1S will target midmarket customers who seek an inexpensive, easy-to-deploy, low-risk suite of business applications including ERP, CRM and supply chain management. The hosted application will be available as a monthly subscription. It will give smaller, cost-sensitive companies the flexibility to set up and test the software on their own before deciding to make a purchase, using a "try, run and adapt" model.
Users who see the browser-based application for the first time will notice an interface that blends in with "the Windows environment," Kagermann says.
"A huge effort" went into designing a simple, intuitive and uniform user interface, says SAP board member Peter Zencke, who heads the A1S product development team.
A "help" icon appears on every screen. When clicked, users are shown a list of options, including "frequently asked questions" of a video link if they want to see how to perform a task.
For technical problems, users can click another icon and send an e-mail to the SAP service team, which will be able to provide support.
The application conducts a dialogue with users, asking them what type of business tasks they need to perform and how they would like to manage them, offering examples in simple language.
Some businesses will be able to set up A1S on their own, others my need some initial coaching, according to Kagermann.
"We expect a new breed of consultant to help some businesses get started — but only to get started," Kagermann says. "Once businesses have used the application, they'll get the hang of it pretty quickly."