IBM and Salesforce partner to sell Watson and Einstein

Two of the best-marketed names in artificial intelligence are coming together to pitch their wares to a sea of unwitting rubes new customers with the announcement that IBM and Salesforce are going to partner.

The new partnership amounts to a way for IBM to sell consulting services across both Salesforce’s Einstein and IBM’s Watson AI-branded businesses.

Insights from Watson will now be available directly in Salesforce’s Intelligent Customer Success platform, mixing Einstein’s customer relationship data with Watson’s stores of structured and unstructured data that include weather, healthcare, financial services and retail, the companies said.

“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 chief executive officer, IBM, in a statement.

Rometty said that IBM expects Watson to “touch” 1 billion people — through everything from oncology and retail to tax preparation and cars (no word on whether they’re also including advertising in that figure, but they may be… IBM runs a lot of Watson ads).

“The combination of Einstein and Watson will make businesses smarter and our customers more successful,” said Marc Benioff, chairman and chief executive of Salesforce, in a statement. “I’m thrilled to form an alliance with IBM — no company’s core values are as close to Salesforce’s as IBM’s. It’s the best of both worlds.”

In spite of Benioff’s hyperbole, you can’t escape the fact that these two companies make strange bedfellows, and it’s not crystal clear how well the two intelligence products will integrate or how chummy the two companies will be.

According to the statement, the two companies will be rolling out a Watson integration with Einstein through APIs, all the better to target customers. The two companies presented a “fer instance” where Einstein data on customers could be integrated with weather and broad retail industry data to send email campaigns to shoppers.

Indeed, the weather integration seems to be the crown jewel of the partnership, with IBM touting that Salesforce AppExchange will include its Weather Company business as a lightning component providing weather updates that inform customer interactions.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, IBM’s consulting company Bluewolf will create a practice unit for Salesforce’s Einstein software and services. While IBM’s integration suite for Salesforce will be available at the end of March, the rest of the integrated services won’t be rolled out til the second half of the year.

Salesforce and IBM both declined to comment on this story.