Microsoft, SAP Play Duet

A joint offering will allow Office access to SAP data.
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Microsoft (MSFT) - Get Report, a company that dominates the desktop, and SAP (SAP) - Get Report, which dominates the market for enterprise applications, have launched their first joint product, the two software giants said Tuesday.

The product is called Duet, and it allows customers to use their existing Microsoft Office environment to access selected SAP business processes and data. Over the next few months, the companies will release updates that allow customers to access broader sets of corporate data.

Tuesday's announcement contained no real surprises. Early versions of Duet, formerly known as Mendocino, have already been given to scores of enterprises and both companies have freely discussed the product for months.

Even so, Duet underlines the close cooperation between SAP and Microsoft, companies that once discussed a merger, and will now team up to sell, market and support the application when the commercial version is released in June.

The companies announced the product in a joint press conference featuring a senior executive from each. Although the tone was very friendly, Shai Agassi, president of SAP's Product and Technology Group, was cautious when asked if more joint products are in the offing. "If this works well, we will talk again," he said.

Microsoft's Jeff Raikes, who heads the company's business division, noted the difficulty of "bringing together two companies with two different styles and approaches to the marketplace." Despite the obstacles, he said, Duet is launching on time, with more functionality than was originally envisioned when the project began some two years ago.

Shares of Microsoft recently fell 37 cents, or 1.5%, to $23.92; SAP was up 12 cents, or 0.2%, to $55.02.