IBM Quietly Begins Building Partner Program Around Watson

**Editor’s Note: Click here for a list of recent channel-program changes you should know.**

“Jeopardy” champ. Physician’s assistant. Now partner magnet?

IBM’s versatile Watson supercomputer may very well be the next platform around which the company hopes to build a thriving partner ecosystem.

In a recent blog, IBM’s Sandy Carter, the general manager of ecosystem development, touted some of the recent milestones of the famed IBM supercomputer, which excels at processing natural language data queries.

Echoing CEO Ginny Rometty’s previous comments that Big Blue will invest more than $1 billion in the technology to make it more commercially viable, Carter wrote that, “Watson technologies are changing the world, and initiatives, such as the IBM Watson Ecosystem Program, open these powerful capabilities to Business Partners using cloud technologies.”

According to Carter, IBM is gradually “expanding the program and access to the Watson Developer Cloud and experimenting with different ways to give access to ISVs that want to build a Powered by Watson application.”

To that end, she openly invited would-be developers “to get your application started.” She also solicited business partners to submit ideas on how their innovations could take advantage of Watson technologies. Twenty-five contributors will be given access to a Watson API sandbox “to build a prototype and demonstrate their vision to the world.”

According to a report in TheVARguy, “IBM is looking to quasi-mainstream Watson by building a wide network of third-party cloud-focused partners, perhaps including developers, ISVs, SIs, channel partners, MSPs and others. Compared to the Watson developer challenge and other, more publicity-grabbing headlines, it’s a move overshadowed and soft-peddled but it’s equally as important, if not more so.”

For partners wondering if there’s a true business opportunity around Watson, it’s important to note that CEO Rometty has said that she hopes Watson will be a $10 billion business in four years, starting from a relatively small base of just $100 million.

With potential like that, you can expect partners focused on big data to take note of what Watson has to offer.

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