Salesforce is formally entering the enterprise artificial intelligence fray, creating a new research group and adding AI services to its suite of cloud products under the brand ‘Einstein’.
A fortnight out from the start of its annual Dreamforce gathering in San Francisco, Einstein general manager John Ball laid out Salesforce’s AI strategy, which has been under development for some time.
Einstein incorporates technology delivered through acquisitions this year, including MetaMind and Israeli start-up Implisit.
A new team of “over 175 data scientists” – now known as the Salesforce Research group – have spent the past months working on Einstein and baking AI “deeply” into Salesforce’s CRM core.
MetaMind founder and now Salesforce chief scientist Richard Socher is heading up the new research unit.
Salesforce has made no secret of its intention to build what its strategic planning vice president Peter Schwartz calls “little AI” into its product set.
“Artificial intelligence is the future of Salesforce,” Schwartz said in Melbourne earlier this year.
Ball made it clear that Salesforce’s efforts, both commercial and research-oriented, would be targeted “first and foremost” at improving its own products.
This contrasts with other AI players such as IBM, whose cognitive technology Watson is offered to customers as a series of APIs, rather than being embedded into existing IBM products.
“We’re initially focusing on CRM,” Ball said.
“I can’t predict exactly what’s going to happen in the future or where we’re going – but we view [Einstein’s] purpose as enhancing our CRM platform. It’s part of our ecosystem.”
It is unclear how Salesforce plans to price Einstein capabilities in its various cloud products.
“Many new Salesforce Einstein features will be available at an additional charge,” the vendor said in a statement.
“Others will be included as part of existing licenses and editions.”
Ball said Salesforce had chosen the name Einstein because the inventor was "one of the greatest minds if not the greatest mind of all time, and he was famous for taking complex ideas and simplifying them as much as they can be simplified”.