Some Thoughts About the Watson-Einstein Partnership

Einstein and Watson partnering sounds like the trainer of a bad scifi movie. However, the alliance is taking place in the artificial intelligence(AI) space. A few days ago, IBM and Salesforce announced a strategic partnership to integrate their AI platforms (Watson and Einstein respectively) as well as complementary software and services.

The AI agreement also includes IBM’s deployment of Salesforce;s Service Cloud to address its customer support requirements. Even though the AI partnership might have surprised a few considering that IBM and Salesforce are perceived as competitors in the AI space, it makes a lot of sense from a strategic standpoint. However, to understand the implications of the Einstein-Watson strategic alliance, we should look beyond the general statements in the press release eand into the strategic roadmap of both AI platforms.

5 Things to Consider About the Watson-Einstein Partnership

1 — Just Like in IOT, Salesforce Opts to Partner vs. Building

The partnership with IBM is another example of Salesforce’s strategy to partner with a top PaaS providers in highly strategic areas instead of investing on building its own capability. About a year ago, Salesforce announced a similar agreement with AWS IOT in order to incorporate its capabilities into the Salesforce IOT Cloud. Now Salesforce follows the same pattern by partnering with IBM Watson after announcing the release of Einstein.

From those two strategic moves, we can conclude that Salesforce is having a tough time keeping up with PaaS rivals such as Azure, AWS, Bluemix or Google Cloud on horizontal cloud services capabilities. Instead, Salesforce seems to be focusing on building higher level cloud business services and partnering with other PaaS to supplement the underlying technical infrastructure.

2 — Einstein Gain More AI than Watson

From an AI standpoint, Einstein is the main beneficiary of the partnership. By leveraging Watson, Einstein will have access to a complete suite of cognitive services in areas such as speech, voice, vision and knowledge which would have, otherwise, been hard to build from the ground up by Salesforce.

2 — Adoption is the Main Benefit for Watson

By partnering with Salesforce, IBM should expect a major increase on the adoption of Watson’s capabilities within Salesforce’s large customer base. The partnership is certainly a strong commercial validation for Watson that continues executing better than competitors.

4 — Implications for SaaS Vendors

When comes to SaaS, Salesforce pretty much controls the direction and pace of innovation of the market. The strategic alliance with Watson offers Salesforce the ability to innovate and move faster than competitors in the AI space. As a result, we should expect other top SaaS vendors to establish similar strategic alliances with vendors such as Microsoft, Amazon, Google or even IBM to match Salesforce’s capabilities.

5 — Implications for AI Platforms

Watson continues outperforming competitors when comes to market adoption.,. The partnership with IBM is likely to yield big adoption adoption numbers for Watson. As a result Watson competitors such as Google, Amazon or Microsoft might look to establish similar alliances with Salesforce’s competitors such as WorkDay, Oracle, SAP among others. In that area, Microsoft and Google can leverage Ofice365 and G-Suite as an important channel to drive adoption of their respective cloud AI platforms.

CEO of IntoTheBlock, Chief Scientist at Invector Labs, I write The Sequence Newsletter, Guest lecturer at Columbia University, Angel Investor, Author, Speaker.

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