The world’s largest IT conference in Hannover is still the international meeting place for software and hardware manufacturers. CeBIT is also the gauge of how the IT industry is generally faring. In contrast to the situation last year, many manufacturers appeared optimistic when talking with SAP.info. In addition to the officially communicated themes of “Networking” and “Increased Efficiency” the word on everyone’s lips was 3D – and everything that goes along with it: glasses, videos, displays, and storage media – not to mention the future of the internet based on XML3D.
An increasing number of software releases are available as web services and as apps for smartphones in addition to the traditional desktop installation. The only requirement for such services is a network connection for interaction with backend servers. Web servers and the much-celebrated internet cloud are gaining importance in everyday corporate applications. Service providers now offer the capacity of their data centers for many tasks. Thus business data ends up in the cloud. And, when the volume of data throughput increases, an application is granted more hardware resources as needed – or at least in theory. But let’s take one thing at a time. In the first part of our CeBIT coverage we focus on current business hardware – where the 3D trend is as visible as that in the consumer sphere – and on the newest versions of SAP software.
Processor and Graphics on one Chip
In 2010, Intel is providing notebook manufacturers with its Core i-processors, which have been built into desktops and servers since last year. This marks the beginning of the slow but certain decline of the successful Core 2 Duo processor. The dual-core i3, i5, and i7 processors, based on Nehalem architecture and code-named Arrandale, combine CPU and graphics processing all on a single die. There is also a quad-core variant of the Core i7 chip (codenamed Clarksdale), and it claims the title of top-performer, though without integrated graphic processing. Fujitsu has on display its Core i notebooks with Intel’s anti-theft functionality (Intel AT). Should they be stolen, owners can deactivate the machines or wipe their hard drives using remote technology. The Fujitsu Lifebook T900 communicates with the owner’s corporate IT servers at least once a day using GSP, GPS, or a network connection and also sends its location. Wide availability is expected beginning in April.
On the other end of the performance spectrum, Intel has completely overhauled its Atom processors. But if you’re hoping for a jump in performance, you’ll be disappointed. Intel has only minimally increased the speed of its current Atom N450 (codename Pine Trail) from 1.6 GHz to 1.66 GHz. The changes, rather, are hidden deeper below the surface. Like its bigger Nehalem brothers, the Atom’s CPU and graphics processing are combined on a single chip. This significantly drops the energy consumption, allowing new netbooks like the Asus EeePC 1018P to last a full day inside or outside of the office without a power outlet. Additionally, the new Atoms are full 64-bit processors that can also run the SSE instruction set. Moreover, the 1018P is one of the first netbooks with a USB 3.0 port.
Smart Notebook Technology
To go along with the new Atom generation, chip manufacturer Nvidia is introducing the second version of its ION chipset. Thanks to the integrated GT218 graphics solution, this new chipset helps in the decoding of computationally-intensive HD videos that would stutter on Atom-powered computers without it. Because the new Atom line is managing without Northbridge, the ION GPU is connected via PCI-Express. The first ION 2 netbooks on the market will be the 12” Asus 1201PN and the 10” Acer 532G – the latter will be available at the end of March but is not being introduced at CeBIT 2010.
In addition to the ION 2 chipset, the ACER 532G will put Nvidia’s second-biggest recent development to use: Nvidia Optimus. Notebooks with Optimus switch dynamically between dedicated and integrated graphics, offering graphics processing power when needed – such as when playing HD video. If no graphically sophisticated applications are running, the integrated graphics are used; this helps save power. The switching takes place completely behind the scenes without flickering or hesitation.
The smell of 3D in the air
3D is one of the big trending themes at CeBIT. Besides TVs, 3D has found its way onto monitors, notebooks, and projectors. We’ll quickly explain the differences between the implemented 3D technologies and elaborate on the most interesting devices.
The presented devices can be split into two groups based on the different ways the 3D effect is created: polarization and shutter. Both methods require the user to wear special glasses to be immersed in the 3D world. There are alternative methods that function without needing to wear glasses, but these are far from market-ready.
The more complex of the two methods, shutter, requires a monitor with a refresh rate of 120 Hz. Additionally, the graphics card must use drivers that support the display of 3D graphics. Almost all PC and notebook manufacturers now use a system consisting of Nvidia graphics together with 3D Vision Shutter Glasses from the same supplier. Take for instance the Acer GD245HQ and LG W2363D monitors that work with the Nvidia system.
Because the glasses darken one of the two eyes synchronously with the screen to produce a 3D image, they must be connected to the computer either through radio waves or with a cable. Due to the complex technology, shutter glasses are roughly 100x as costly as polarizing glasses. The shutter method did have its first heyday in the 1990s. However, lower resolutions and refresh rates than today induced rapid headaches for many users.
With the polarization method, which is also used in 3D movie theaters, the glasses have lenses coated in two different substances. This allows different picture information to pass through each lens. This technology can be found mainly with TVs and projectors, though Acer has a notebook on display at CeBIT 2010, the Aspire 5740DG, that uses polarization technology. In the smallest configuration the 3D Aspire costs €799. The price includes the 3D glasses and an attachment for users already wearing glasses.
Consumer vs. Business
At the CeBIT, there are many new consumer developments in the world of 3D. But also on the business side the exhibitors are following the trend. Hyundai has a multi-monitor video wall for digital signage on display with a diagonal width of over two meters. Smaller 23” and 50” displays are also in the line-up. The manufacturer is betting on the polarization technology, which, according to Hyundai European Regional Manager Young Hoon Shin, is better suited to the market on account of the cheaper glasses and the lower risk of headaches.
New Version: Business One 8.8
At the conference, SAP demonstrated the new SAP Business One Version 8.8. Those working with the older version will notice the revamped design immediately – a more intuitive user interface will make the software easier to use. And if the new interface is not to a user’s liking, it can be changed back to that of the previous version.
The second improvement is integrated analytic functionality for the SAP BusinessObjects portfolio. This allows software such as Crystal Reports, Crystal Reports Viewer, or tools like XL Reporter to run on SAP Business One 8.8. Data can then be analyzed and displayed graphically as desired. With Xcelsius software, available separately, the user can create interactive dashboards.
Additionally, the new version of SAP Business One includes data archiving functionality. On-demand web services like internet shops can then be linked in. Interesting for payroll departments: the new software contains a DATEV interface for salary calculation in Germany.
Through an upgrade wizard customers can quickly and easily convert to the new version of SAP Business One with minimal interruption to the normal flow of business.
Focus on Cloud Computing and Mobile Landscape
SAP has more improvements in the works for SAP Business One. Examples include the integration of cloud-based applications, mashups, and more connections to mobile devices like Blackberrys or iPhones. Social networking will also be further integrated in the future.
The market release for SAP Business One 8.8 is planned for the end of April. The application will be available in 40 country versions, including support for country-specific legal regulations, various languages and time zones. For those interested in seeing the new version of SAP Business One in action, visit Hall 5 Stand A04 at CeBIT or Halls 19 and 20 at the SAP World Tour.
SAP Business ByDesign Feature Pack 2.5
Thanks to Feature Pack 2.0 the SaaS SAP Business ByDesign has been supporting web services like GoYellow and Map24 and displaying news from various online business portals for over a year. With Feature Pack 2.5 several improvements are being added: the software supports the RIA (Rich Internet Architecture) client Microsoft Silverslight. Additional applications like Groupeware, Microsoft Office, and Lotus Sametime can be accessed through the browser plug-in.
Similar to SAP Business One, the user interface for SAP Business ByDesign provides access to the DATEV interface. As a result, personal information can be directly transferred to the tax office. When the information has been successfully posted, a record is made in the SAP software.
In the near future SAP Business ByDesign will also run on the iPhone. The smartphone’s touchscreen will increase the usability of the software. The display automatically adjusts depending on whether the iPhone is held horizontally or vertically in the user’s hand. The mobile version of SAP Business ByDesign enables customer data management, statistical computation, or project planning on the road. Pro tip: shake the iPhone to refresh your to-do list.
SAP NetWeaver Business Client 3.0
At CeBIT SAP presented its Rich Desktop Client SAP NetWeaver Business Client 3.0, designed especially for users of SAP Business All-in-One. With the Business Client, companies using software for small and medium-sized businesses can also integrate other applications. Whether branch-specific software, custom-programmed analysis functions, or web services are being used, all users have access to a uniform interface with SAP NetWeaver Business Client 3.0.
SAP Business Suite on the iPhone
The cooperation between SAP and Sybase, a software provider for mobile devices, is nothing new. The iPhone and Windows Mobile-based solutions presented at the conference by both companies are proof of that relationship. Sybase Mobile Sales for SAP CRM was conceived specifically for sales employees that are often on the road and want access to data from SAP CRM 2007 on business trips.
With Sybase Mobile Workflow for BAP BusinessSuite employees can manage their business processes on the go. Each employee receives a secure email inbox where they record hours worked and travel costs. Both software solutions are available immediately. They run on the Sybase Unwired Platform and on the SAP NetWeaver Platform. Thus applications developed by other companies other than SAP can be integrated, such as databases or web services. By the end of 2010, Sybase Mobile Sales for SAP CRM and Sybase Mobile Workflow for SAP Business Suite will also run on Blackberry devices.