IBM's Watson: The Clock Starts Now

By Darryl K. Taft  |  Print this article Print

NEWS ANALYSIS: The launch of IBM's new Watson Group marks the beginning of a new phase for the company, with its commercialization of cognitive computing.

So you don't judge IBM's success with Watson since Jeopardy back in 2011; you start to judge them since late last year. You don't throw shade on the success of an effort that has only just been given the company's blessing. Let's have a look at where things are next year this time.

"The formation of a dedicated Watson business unit and subsequent investments in the suite further indicate IBM's intent to transition from an outsourcing company to an outcomes-based vendor, a transition that TBR expects will happen over the next two years," said Matthew Casey, a software analyst at Technology Business Research (TBR). "Commercialization of Watson is the next logical step for IBM, based on the company's investment in the platform to date and the increasingly disruptive nature of cloud. However, this will be a challenging task considering the cost and complexity to the end user of adopting Watson technologies."

IBM has long been the big dog in enterprise IT. It may no longer be the case that you can never get fired for buying IBM, but if you choose IBM for your enterprise systems, you are typically in a solid position. Sure, in many new technologies such as big data, analytics and the cloud, IBM has serious competition. But they're not falling down on the job.

"IBM is placing big bets and big money on transforming computer interaction from tabulation and programming to deep engagement," said Forrester senior analyst Michele Goetz, in a statement. "If they succeed, our interaction with technology will truly be personal through interactions and natural conversations that are suggestive, supportive, and as Terry Jones of Kayak explained, 'makes you feel good' about the experience.

"There are still hurdles such as expense, complexity, information access, coping with ambiguity and context, the supervision of learning, and the implications of suggestions that are unrecognized today. To work, the ecosystem has to be open and communal. Investment is needed beyond the platform for applications and devices to deliver on Watson value. IBM's commitment and leadership are in place," Goetz continued. "The question is if IBM and its partners can scale Watson to be something more than a complex custom solution to become a truly transformative approach to businesses and our way of life."

So, yes, IBM faces challenges with Watson. But let's give them a chance before we grade any progress.