SAP AG and Sharp Thursday announced they have reached an agreement that will allow customers of the German enterprise software company to access applications from handheld computers and laptops made by the Japanese vendor.Under the deal, Sharp, in Tokyo, will develop software and handheld devices to support various mobile applications from SAP, in Walldorf, the companies said in a joint statement. The deal was announced at SAP's Sapphire Japan customer forum in Tokyo.The partnership follows a similar deal recently announced between Fujitsu and Nokia. Under this deal, Nokia, in Espoo, Finland, will provide several higher-end handsets based on Symbian's operating system, while Fujitsu, in Tokyo, will offer systems integration, consulting and managed services.As a first step in the SAP deal, Sharp will integrate into its Zaurus SL-C760 and SL-C750 handheld devices two SAP applications that allow salespeople and service technicians to access and process information in the field, said Laurie Kelly Doyle, a spokeswoman for SAP. "These are two popular mobile applications in the area of CRM, but there will be more applications to follow," she said.Neither SAP nor Sharp provided any details on product availability or pricing.In a second step, the companies plan to extend their collaboration to mobile PCs and phones, in addition to Zaurus handheld devices, the companies said.The wireless-capable Zaurus handheld devices are equipped with high-resolution LCDs and run the open source Linux operation system.One of SAP's reasons for partnering with Sharp, the spokeswoman said, was, specifically, the Japanese vendor's high-quality flat-panel displays, which appeal to heavy users of mobile data systems.Sharp's use of Linux, she said, was also a good fit with SAP's Java-based software.After focusing first on the Japanese market, SAP and Sharp intend to expand their collaboration to North America, Europe and the rest of Asia. The companies see global demand for real-time mobile communications services for corporations growing rapidly. They estimate that corporate users of such mobile solutions will soon number 17 million worldwide, including 1.2 million in Japan alone.While the alliance with Sharp isn't the first that SAP has signed with a vendor of handheld devices in Japan, it is the first with a Japanese vendor, Doyle said. In 2001, the German company signed an agreement with the Japanese subsidiary of former Compaq Computer Corp. to support SAP applications over the U.S. vendor's handheld devices in the country, she said.In the same year, SAP struck an agreement with Japanese mobile phone company NTT DoCoMo to explore new mobile enterprise systems.