'Public TV' Provides SAP Some Much Needed Good Publicity in U.S.


Charlie Rose, whose United States Public Broadcasting System (PBS) TV show is described as a broadcast that "engages America's best thinkers, writers, politicians, athletes, entertainers, business leaders, scientists and other newsmakers in one-on-one interviews and round-table discussions," interviewed Leo Apotheker of SAP and Harvard Business School professor Andrew McAfee in a segment that aired January 6, 2009 (recorded November 20, 2008).

In a wide ranging interview, Apotheker said

  • Business will be different in the future not only because of the current economic downturn but also because of fundamental changes caused by networks. By networks, he was referring to social, business/corporate, and public/private associations characterized by loosely coupled and highly interactive relationships, not to network technology. But a product's technology and/or architecture should match what it is trying to accomplish and "loosely-coupled" is not a word I think of when I hear the words "SAP R/3."
  • SAP is "doing open source without doing open source;" Apotheker was referring to the 1,200,000 non-SAP members of the SAP developer "network," who he says do not want the software they develop for the R/3 ecosystem to be open sourced from a terms and conditions point of view but that it is open source in terms of community.
  • And most interesting, given that it was apparently spontaneous, he said that SAP might be in the "hardware business" in 10 years; he was referring to the likelihood - with which I agree - that appliances will become more and more popular (he was specific that SAP would not be manufacturing appliances but marketing and shipping complete appliances that included its software).

Rose said SAP was the leading business software provider and asked Apotheker how SAP hoped to maintain that lead. The answer: SAP leads and continues to lead "because that is all they do" (as opposed to major competitors such as IBM, Microsoft and Oracle that are in other software businesses). Not that I would expect Rose to follow the IT market this closely, but in reality SAP is the leader in the ERP applications software market, not the overall business software market, and not even in the overall applications software market.


Apotheker's point is a good one, however: let's see if SAP sticks to its knitting as the CEO torch is passed to him in the near future. But on the other hand, if they do concentrate on just one type of software, they run the risk of being acquired.


The Apotheker/McAfee interview can be viewed here. Rose has also interviewed Bill Gates (12 times), Larry Ellison (5 times) and other IT luminaries in the past.


[For the benefit of our readers from outside the U.S., PBS is separate from the U.S. government - although it receives some government funds - and ranks in the middle of the pack in viewership, lower than a half dozen totally commercial broadcast networks and about the same as hundreds of cable choices.


[PBS was initially formed to provide educational and like content to the "public broadcasting" stations that in turn support the very heterogeneous U.S. kindergarten to high-school education system. There is no country-wide U.S. education system or policy. PBS may be best known for its relationship to the long-running children's educational series, Sesame Street