Recently, some questions have been voiced about the types of browsers SAP customers can deploy. Not the least reason behind these questions is, of course, the ever-evolving world of browsers! Today, I will try to bring a little clarity into this issue.
In May of 2004, SAP issued a statement of direction regarding its support of browsers.
In it, SAP stated that while its customers demanded a broad spectrum of browsers (Netscape, Mozilla, Konqueror, Safari, Opera ...) on multiple flavors of Linux as well as on AIX, HP/UX, Solaris and even OS/2, SAP had decided to only support a limited offering of browsers.
In explanation, it is SAP's goal to to make applications independent of specific browser versions as far as possible by providing generic user interaction frameworks and building all applications on top of these UI frameworks.
Since SAP needs to provide full test and support for any single of these combinations of OS / browser version across the whole SAP NetWeaver platform and SAP Business Suite, this would constitute an enormous effort for SAP development, production and support.
The statement of direction also stated that partial coverage of functionality by a browser was not an option since such a decision would not provide clear planning guidelines for our customers.
Therefore the strategy for browser support was defined for the next release SAP NetWeaver and all applications which use the mainstream User interaction technologies (Web Dynpro, Business Server pages, HTMLB and SAP GUI for HTML) as follows:
"The following browser / client operating system platform combinations are supported for all end user functionality and tested by SAP:
a. Internet Explorer 6.0 and above on Windows 2000 and above b. Mozilla 1.7 on Linux (SUSE and Red Hat) c. Mozilla 1.7 on MAC OS X d. Mozilla 1.7 on Windows 2000 and above."
The statement of direction also stated that it is SAP's goal to provide the same coverage for administration functionality, but some administration functionality might be restricted to Windows / Internet Explorer.
Also, some applications require Microsoft Office or some other Active X controls which are only available in combination with MS Windows and MS Internet Explorer.
The statement of direction continued that the full set of developer tools would require client specific installations and would only be provided on Windows clients in a future SAP NetWeaver release.
Support of Mozilla on other client operating systems (like AIX, UP/UX, Solaris) could not be guaranteed and tested by SAP. Likewise, operating systems partners needed to make sure that their browser / OS combination offered functionality which was equivalent to Mozilla 1.7 on Linux.
Tests would be conducted in 32 bit mode only. Machines with combined 32/64 bit support could therefore be used by customers, whereas machines which were to be targeted for 64 bit processing only would not be supported as client machines by SAP.
As the statement of direction further pointed out, this statement described SAPs intention at that moment in time, and that changes might occur subject to technical or legal restrictions which could not be foreseen at the time of its writing.
Ready for the good and the bad news?
The good news is there is no bad news!
If anything, the world of browsers has changed a bit once again.
Mozilla.org recently made a decision not to develop Mozilla 1.7 any further, but rather concentrate on the Firefox codeline. Firefox currently has the biggest momentum in the market.
At the same time, Netscape was released in version 8.0 in March 2005, based on Firefox 1.0 browser. It is important to point out that Netscape is more than just a browser as it includes collaboration packages. SAP has always only supported the browser portion of Netscape.
SAPs decision in 2004 was to move forward with Mozilla 1.7 (since modified to include Firefox 1.0, which is equivalent to the Mozilla 1.7.5 engine) due to its need for uniform browser support across all UI technologies, based on unified rendering principles. The decision to no longer support Netscape 7.x was largely due to unsolvable support issues with this browser.
As an exception to this rule, Netscape 7.x support was enabled for the most recent version of Business Server Pages (BSP) and consequently for some applications (like SAP E-Recruiting 3.0) which are solely built on this version of BSP. Please see SAP note 598860 for details.
Since Netscape 8 (Beta) is based on Firefox 1.0, customers can use Netscape 8 for all applications on an as-is basis, but SAP will only test and fix problems based on Firefox.
As always, customers will have to upgrade to newer patch levels of browsers (Mozilla 1.7.x or Firefox 1.0.x), especially if functionality or security issues are fixed with these patch levels.
In a next step, guidelines are in preparation how extranet applications can be provided for a larger set of browsers but with clear functional restrictions. These guidelines will cover a subset of NetWeaver functionality as well as custom UI development based on SAP NetWeaver UI technologies.
To put this all into graphical terms, here is a browser genealogy:
I have to caution that this write-up is reflective of the current browser situation in the market.
As you can probably imagine, new releases of the SAP NetWeaver platform and SAP applications may require extensions in the user interface functionality which in turn may require newer versions of browsers and client operating systems.
The most current information regarding browser support can always be found in the SAP product availability matrix at http://service.sap.com/pam by navigating to SAP NetWeaver -> SAP NetWeaver 04.
In the meantime, happy browsing and make sure you keep your virus protection up-to-date.