As expected, SAP AG is using the platform of its annual Sapphire user group get-together in Orlando, Florida, this week, to stress its move from selling its hugely-popular R/3 three-tier business software suite as a monolithic bloc to a more componentized approach. Simultaneously it is confirming that the next version of R/3, Release 4.0, is still on schedule to ship to some customers by year end, and that it will be generally available in the second quarter of next year. In addition, SAP is claiming its so-called BAPIs (business application programming interfaces) have won the approval of the Open Applications Group Inc, a trade body made up of enterprise software vendors and a group SAP was a founding member of. The concept of the BAPI is key to SAP’s Business Framework program, in terms of supporting both the ongoing componentization work and as a way to defuse criticism of R/3 as being a closed, all-or-nothing system. This in response to the oft-quoted main criticism voiced by analysts and rivals to SAP, that its rich functionality implies over-bearing commitment by a user in terms of time to implementation and cost of ownership. The company claims its BAPIs are now accessible from third party or user-written applications using Microsoft Visual Basic, Visual J++, IBM Visual Age, and Java. Hasso Plattner, spokesman for SAP’s executive board and a co-founder of the company in Germany 25 years ago, claims SAP is thus well on the road to making R/3 and Release 4.0 a family of integrated components that can be upgraded independently. SAP now has over a dozen components available, including treasury, management consolidation, its Business Information Warehouse and Human Resources offerings, joined now by joint venture accounting, self-audit and investment control. SAP is also previewing Business Client software, for executing ActiveX Controls and JavaBeans applets at the presentation layer, plus seamless integration with Microsoft Corp’s DCOM component integration framework and support for Visual Edge Technology Ltd’s ObjectBridge object translation engine which will provide users with the ability to use Object Management Group Corba components in addition to DCOM. SAP’s commitment to Java may be gleaned from the fact that it says it now has some 20 projects underway internally using the language, including an as yet unannounced configuration and planning module, and that it has renamed its ABAP 4 4GL as ‘ABAP Objects’ to signify its acceptance of the object oriented model (though Plattner also points out the Java virtual machine concept is what ABAP has been doing for six years).