Mark Davison travelled to San Francisco to attend IBM’s PartnerWorld at Think conference to find out what new strategies and technologies the IT giant has in store for the channel.


Watson takes on human in historic debate

IBM’s AI platform Watson made history today when it took on a champion human debater in the first public debate of its kind on the statement: “We should subsidise pre-school.”

In the debate, moderated by four-time Emmy winner John Donvan who moderates debate series Intelligence Squared which is viewed by over 30-million US households, IBM’s AI system Project Debater took on debate champion and head of economic risk at AKE International, Harish Natarajan. Donvan set the scene when he announced: “Project Debater has a gender. SHE will be arguing for the resolution which means that Harish will be arguing against it. Welcome to the future.”

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There’s still money in ‘tin’

Software solutions in the form of AI, machine learning and data analytics may be the flavour of the moment, but there is still room – and money – to be made for the channel in the sale of hardware systems that underpin these new technologies and platforms.

This is the word from Mary Coucher, VP, WW Systems Sales at IBM Partner Ecosystem, who emphasises this point further: “As you’ve heard during various keynotes, there is no AI (artificial intelligence) without IA (Information Architecture), which is the systems group. We underpin every solution that IBM offers. It’s not exclusive, you can run the solutions on other systems, but we underpin the whole software range for the organisation.”

Coucher says that IBM intends to grow systems sales through the channel at double the rate of direct sales and is implementing a number of steps to ensure this.

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IBM continues to transform channel

In the 18 months since he took over its channel operations, John Teltsch, GM of IBM’s Partner Ecosystem, has made significant impact with some of the changes he has brought to the partner table. And, in a fast-changing business environment, the company’s partners can expect more positive transformation in the coming months.

“It’s a journey,” Teltsch says. “A journey that started 37 years ago with PCs, servers and hardware, but now we’ve moved on from a volume to a value perspective and a key issue now is skills. Even in IBM itself, we are on a new path where IBMers are being reskilled and re-educated.”

Teltsch says that the company has been on this new path for over a year now, utilising about 15 different enablement tools based on its Seismic platform.

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