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HP buying SAP?

The scruffy part of journalism repeats rumors, but it's a habit too entrenched for me to break. So here goes. A journalist out of Boston, Barbara Darrow, says she's heard "from a guy tight with HP insiders" that Hewlett-Packard is "talking to SAP about buying the ERP kingpin."

Darrow says in her blog entry that she doesn't know much else about this transaction, but it wouldn't even be the largest acquisition in the history of Enterprise Resource Planning. But SAP as part of HP would sure be good business for the vendor's services operations. Entering the SAP alternate universe usually requires a guide.

The blog report drew my attention because it mentions one reason HP would want to get into the ERP business. Hewlett-Packard has been there before, Darrow notes, with something "called MM3000. Or MM-3000."

Which became eXegeSys (boy am I glad I don't have to spell that one anymore). Which then sold itself to OpenERP Solutions. Which then became part of the Activant solar system. That's the Activant that operates Speedware.

Nobody knows if HP will strike a deal with SAP, or when, or how much it might matter to HP 3000 manufacturing customers. But many of the customers who homestead on the system use ERP. Would they be any more likely to migrate if HP could offer SAP?

Or does this seem like "everything old is new again?" Because I remember a time 20 years ago when only the best enterprise computer makers were able to offer vendor-branded applications. HP had a book full of theirs. Many have been cold in the graveyard a long time.

And if you're thinking that SAP is the kingfish in the ERP pond, you might want to reconsider. Activant has just as many ERP acquisitions as SAP. And Infor, which grew out of its success in the IBM AS/400 world, has lapped up dozens of ERP apps whose customers which have been acquired along with the software. Infor is the foster parent of MANMAN.

We like to visit the ERP Graveyard blog from time to time, just to keep track of where all the ERP flowers have gone. Have a look at the graphic (alas, with tombstones) at the gravesite, where they list MANMAN in the middle column as Ask. Each tombstone represents one acquisition of the application. HP's MM/3000 (they all had a hyphen in their names, back in those days) isn't on the graveyard map, except in its eXegeSys regeneration with a note that adds "originally HP."

SAP might make more of a splash with the big clients, the ones who can make budget for a lot of HP consulting expertise. But HP probably stands little chance of acquiring Infor, with all of its adopted children, or Activant, which likes being an HP partner.