SAP has come in for some strong criticism from software-as-a-service (SaaS) rivals after announcing it was testing its own hosted enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, A1S.

Lindsey Armstrong, co-president for Europe, Middle East and Africa of SaaS vendor, said: “SAP now says SaaS is mainstream – why did they wait so long to attempt to bring mainstream technology to their customers, unless it was to protect their bloated revenue base?”

Armstrong argues that SaaS or on-demand software is both a technology and a business model. “SAP has over-engineered the former and underestimated the impact of the cultural change necessary to participate in the latter,” she said. “Its complex hybrid model will not succeed.”

The A1S product, which is in the early "validation" stage with customers and partners, features a spare screen with "see it, try it, buy it" buttons for prospective customers. Those who want to try it out can get a multimedia demonstration, bring up a list of functions they may or may not want to use, according to SAP executives demonstrating the code at the software giant's Sapphire 2007 conference in Atlanta late last month.

But Armstrong was scathing in her criticism of SAP as a vendor whose product architecture was behind the times. “After the hype of A1S comes the search for truth: and the truth is that SAP has been dragged towards SaaS kicking and screaming, because it is alien to its way of working to value the collaborative input of users versus the technical requirements of companies,” she said.