SAP stepped into the ring of hosted customer relationship management software providers Thursday with products aimed at midsize and large vendors. The German software maker isn't going after small deployments, which traditionally make up the bulk of hosted CRM implementations. There's a 100-user minimum for SAP's offerings, which start at $75 per user, per month.The first product available is SAP Sales, which provides core salesforce automation features for managing customers, contacts and sales pipelines. SAP plans to upgrade the software every 90 days, and will release subscription-based products for marketing and services later this year.SAP executives positioned SAP Sales and future on-demand CRM products as potentially temporary solutions for companies that want to get started quickly with CRM via a hosted model and migrate to an on-premises deployment as their needs grow. Shai Agassi, president of SAP's product and technology group, described "an on-demand solution that can over time grow into an on-premise solution."Because SAP's on-premise and on-demand products share a common architecture, data model and user interface, a company that starts with the hosted version can buy licenses and move the software in-house when the business is ready for more robust CRM capabilities, Agassi said during SAP's launch event last week.SAP is late to the software-as-a-service world compared to its traditional competition for enterprise business applications. Oracle already offers on-premise and hosted CRM products -- as does the now Oracle-owned Siebel Systems. In addition, Salesforce.com, NetSuite and RightNow Technologies are among vendors with hosted CRM products.Analysts offered mixed reviews of SAP's first foray into the hosted CRM world.The GUI for the hosted application is better than that of SAP's on-premises products, but the on-demand offering "lacks mission critical capabilities for complex sales organizations,\u201d says Rob DeSisto, research vice president at Gartner.For example, the first iteration of SAP Sales lacks quotation management functionality; the ability to generate a product-based forecast; and customization features that would let salespeople create formulaic fields or add new menu items such as price calculation tool, DeSisto says.What will appeal to salespeople are the product's streamlined user interface and tool for performing ad-hoc queries of sales data, he says.In the big picture, SAP needs to prove its worth to salespeople, not just those at the level of CIO and vice president of sales, DeSisto says. "It has not been successful doing this with its current CRM offering, which is the primary factor for the large amount of SAP CRM shelfware.\u201dLongtime partner IBM will provide application hosting services for SAP's on-demand products.