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Is IBM Watson A ‘Joke’?

On the May 8th edition of Closing Bell on CNBC, venture capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, founder and CEO of Social Capital, created quite a stir in enterprise artificial intelligence (AI) circles, when he took on IBM Watson, Big Blue’s AI platform.

“Watson is a joke, just to be completely honest,” Palihapitiya said. “I think what IBM is excellent at is using their sales and marketing infrastructure to convince people who have asymmetrically less knowledge to pay for something.”

Jeopardy! podiums showing final scores, with IBM Watson in the center.

Jeopardy! podiums showing final scores, with IBM Watson in the center.

IBM quickly parried. “Watson is not a consumer gadget but the A.I. platform for real business. Watson is in clinical use in the U.S. and 5 other countries. It has been trained on 6 types of cancers with plans to add 8 more this year,” IBM told CNBC. “Beyond oncology, Watson is in use by nearly half of the top 25 life sciences companies, major manufacturers for IoT applications, retail and financial services firms, and partners like GM, H&R Block and Salesforce.com. Does any serious person consider saving lives, enhancing customer service and driving business innovation a joke?”

The next day, Palihapitiya walked back his comments – somewhat. “I probably should have been more careful with my words,” he told CNBC, but he added that “there are a lot of people building extremely meaningful solutions who are probably getting somewhat out-marketed” by IBM – including one or more of his firm’s own portfolio companies.

Clearly, IBM sees no humor in Watson’s progress in the marketplace, and given Palihapitiya is building competitors to Watson, he may simply be talking smack. Nevertheless, the challenges IBM is facing with its bet-the-company gamble on Watson are well-known, as I discussed in a recent article on the company.

Now that Palihapitiya has poked a stick at Big Blue, it’s time to take another look at Watson, joke or not.

Read the entire article at https://www.forbes.com/sites/jasonbloomberg/2017/07/02/is-ibm-watson-a-joke/.

Intellyx publishes the Agile Digital Transformation Roadmap poster, advises companies on their digital transformation initiatives, and helps vendors communicate their agility stories. As of the time of writing, none of the organizations mentioned in this article are Intellyx customers. Image credit: Atomic Taco.

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Jason Bloomberg is a leading IT industry analyst, Forbes contributor, keynote speaker, and globally recognized expert on multiple disruptive trends in enterprise technology and digital transformation. He is ranked #5 on Onalytica’s list of top Digital Transformation influencers for 2018 and #15 on Jax’s list of top DevOps influencers for 2017, the only person to appear on both lists.

As founder and president of Agile Digital Transformation analyst firm Intellyx, he advises, writes, and speaks on a diverse set of topics, including digital transformation, artificial intelligence, cloud computing, devops, big data/analytics, cybersecurity, blockchain/bitcoin/cryptocurrency, no-code/low-code platforms and tools, organizational transformation, internet of things, enterprise architecture, SD-WAN/SDX, mainframes, hybrid IT, and legacy transformation, among other topics.

Mr. Bloomberg’s articles in Forbes are often viewed by more than 100,000 readers. During his career, he has published over 1,200 articles (over 200 for Forbes alone), spoken at over 400 conferences and webinars, and he has been quoted in the press and blogosphere over 2,000 times.

Mr. Bloomberg is the author or coauthor of four books: The Agile Architecture Revolution (Wiley, 2013), Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (Wiley, 2006), XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996). His next book, Agile Digital Transformation, is due within the next year.

At SOA-focused industry analyst firm ZapThink from 2001 to 2013, Mr. Bloomberg created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011.

Prior to ZapThink, Mr. Bloomberg built a diverse background in eBusiness technology management and industry analysis, including serving as a senior analyst in IDC’s eBusiness Advisory group, as well as holding eBusiness management positions at USWeb/CKS (later marchFIRST) and WaveBend Solutions (now Hitachi Consulting), and several software and web development positions.