SAP announces new partnership with Apple to expand iOS in the enterprise

SAP announced a broad partnership with Apple today to bring iOS to SAP’s enterprise customer base. The announcement comes almost two years after Apple made a similar deal with IBM.

Steve Lucas, president for SAP’s Digital Enterprise Platform says while it’s natural to see similarities between the two deals — two large enterprise companies making a deal with Apple — he says there are major differences.

For starters, he says SAP is firmly an enterprise software company and it has built a cloud platform to access all of the software it has developed, whether its core ERP product, SuccessFactors or Concur. He says having that core certainly is a differentiating factor in his view.

Still there are similarities too. As with IBM, SAP has been working closely with Apple to bring its profound design sense to this endeavor. The objective of this partnership is no less than to revolutionize work on the iPad and iPhone, Lucas says.

It’s no secret that Apple wants a bigger piece of the enterprise market and these kinds of agreements help solidify their enterprise position and drive Apple hardware sales inside companies that were traditionally PC shops — and hence more often considered Microsoft territory.

These agreements have been driven in large part by the enormous popularity of the iPhone and the iPad. As employees have brought these devices into the workplace, it has forced companies to accommodate their requirements including building custom apps for them. When you combine this with digital transformation initiatives inside large organizations, these companies need a deeper understanding of iOS devices and how to use that to help drive that transformation.

SAP CEO Bill McDermott with Apple CEO Tim Cook.

Apple CEO Tim Cook with SAP CEO Bill McDermott. Photo Credit: SAP


SAP has announced several programs to help push iOS to its customers starting with a new set of apps for the iPad and iPhone that take advantage of data stored in SAP tools. It’s also providing an iOS SDK for SAP HANA, its in-memory database product, allowing organizations to not only use the apps that SAP is building, but also giving them the opportunity to build their own custom apps using data stored in HANA.

“We are approaching the building out of these apps entirely differently, largely due to the way Apple thinks about app design. I believe firmly they will fulfill the mission of revolutionizing work on iPad on iPhone,” Lucas told TechCrunch.

Finally, much like IBM it wouldn’t be a deal without an educational component to round it out, so SAP is also offering SAP Academy for iOS as a training ground for SAP programmers to learn to use the HANA iOS SDK. Lucas says the company is absolutely committed to this educational effort and it’s not something they will announce and go away in a few months, but a program that he sees lasting well into the future.

While you might not see a natural fit between SAP and Apple, when the IBM partnership was launched in 2014, it certainly raised some eyebrows too, but by the end of last year the partnership had created 100 apps — and that number has surely increased since then.

In fact, SAP is also planning on building 100 apps. The apps and the SDK are not yet available, but they say they should start to trickle out in Beta later this year. Many of the apps are in progress, according to Lucas, but they are not ready to ship yet.

Apple also signed a partnership with Cisco last summer.