05 September 2002
*Flat rate internet in Ireland*: UTV has just announced a euro29.99/mo off-peak flat rate internet package. This requires a euro30 sign-up charge as well but this is to be waived up til the December holidays. More info at www.utvip.com. Getting a flat rate net product back into the stifling Irish ISP market (after Esat's exit) is crucial. This is good news for Irish consumers.
11:19:53 AM  #   your two cents []
Lisbon -- or Lisboa, in Portuguese -- is a fabulously beautiful city of hills and plazas and majestic, old, crumbling buildings next to towering new high rises in fantastical architectural styles. What a setting, on the the broad (and I mean *broad*, over a mile in places) mouth of the Targus (or Tejo) river and the sea, with two lovely suspension bridges that are the longest in Europe.

Like many European cities on a waterway (including Dublin), Lisbon had a neglected industrialised waterfront. This is being redeveloped so that the city truly turns back towards and embraces its great watery heritage (the top world maritime power in the 15th and 16th centuries). There's a twisty-turny old district which retains its pre-Crusades Arabic name of Alfama, a legacy of the Moors; there's beautiful blue ceramic tiled walls and colourful pottery; there's delicious seafood specialties (thinly-sliced salted cod drizzled with olive oil; herby octopus salad; spicy marinated mussels on the half-shell; mmmmmmm....), understated Portuguese wine and white (white!) and red port. Too many pleasures to sample in just a few days. Although I can highly recommend the city's superb oceanarium, the best I've ever been to along with the Monterey Bay aquarium. Its massive central tank is the size of four olympic swimming pools; I snuck off in the sun for a visit yesterday afternoon...

I'm here for German software giant SAP's annual European conference, SAPphire, which is being held in the waterside conference area built for Expo 1998. It's a wonderful setting for a conference -- the most pleasant European site I've been to for such things. Sea, bridges, an aerial gondola system; restaurants and bars and waterside gardens; buidlings that are intriguing to look at and a ridiculously cheap metro to zip you to the city centre in a few minutes.

SAPphire is organised with German precision and, surprisingly, manages to feel cosy even though it stretches over three halls. Apparently numbers of attendees have held up compared to last year. But the CEO keynotes (there are two SAP co-CEO/co-chairmen, Hasso Plattner and Henning Kagermann) are cautious and careful. They're not stressing new whiz-bang products so much as return on investment for customer's existing IT systems.

It's a story I've heard all summer long -- Larry Ellison said the same in Copenhagen in June, for example. Everyone also has been talking about their relief that a new sobriety (that seems the favoured phrase) has entered the IT business climate. Yeah, right. All these guys mourn the loss of that big boom, anything goes environment in which they sold and sold, I think (the ones that weren't seriously cooking the books, that is).

As I write Plattner is delivering his keynote -- it's slow and thoughtful and straightforward. He's talking up their enterprise portal, and an exchange infrastructure that allows systems and multiple applications to trade data. He is stressing that these new apps do not create their own databases as in the past but instead ride on top of other applications that generate and store data; they reuse data and can also enable users to re-use services, he says.

Yesterday I attended a somewhat jumbled session that spoke about SAP's new Business One software for small to midsize businesses, a new market for them (think SAP, think enterprise). They want this market badly -- to eventually comprise 15-20 percent of their global revenue. Interesting, but perhaps a tough transition as SMBs may think of SAP as large and unwieldy enterprise software, not something that gears down to them.
10:33:16 AM  #   your two cents []