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IBM and Salesforce partner for artificial intelligence in data analytics

Tim Maytom

and Salesforce have agreed to a partnership that will see the firms combine IBM's Watson artificial intelligence technology with Salesforce's own sales-oriented AI, Einstein, in an effort to boost revenues from Salesforce's data analytics offerings.

The global strategic partnership will aim to deliver joint solutions for Salesforce's clients designed to leverage the power of artificial intelligence and enable smarter decision making. The two companies hope to seamlessly connect their respective AIs to enable a new level of advanced computing power and intelligent customer engagement.

The partnership is IBM's latest move to reach a broad business audience with its Watson AI, which sits at the core of its efforts to reinvent itself for the cloud-computing era. The deal with Salesforce will potentially make the system available to any company with a sales team.

For Salesforce, the deal will help it differentiate itself against its growing competition from tech giants like Microsoft, Oracle and Amazon's growing Web Services division. The two companies will continue to market and sell their AI services independently, without a revenue sharing deal in place, but are clearly hoping that their combined power will reach more customers than each firm could independently.

"The combination of Einstein and Watson will make businesses smarter and our customers more successful," said Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of Salesforce. "I'm thrilled to form an alliance with IBM – no company's core values are as a close to Salesforce's as IBM's. It's the best of both worlds."

The partnership will also bring new insights from Watson directly to Salesforce customers via its Intelligent Customer Success platform, combining the customer insights already offered by the solution with Watson's structured and unstructured data from a wide variety of sources, including data on weather, healthcare, financial services and retail. Together, Watson and Einstein will ingest, reason over and derive recomendations to accelerate decision making and drive greater customer success.

"Within a few years, every major decision – personal or business – will be made with the help of AI and cognitive technologies," said Ginni Rometty, chairman, president and CEO of IBM. "This year we expect Watson will touch 1bn people – through everything from oncology and retail, to tax preparations and cars.

"Now, with today's announcement, the power of Watson will serve the millions of Salesforce and Einstein customers and developers to provide an unprecedented understanding of customers."