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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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More Stories By Jason Bloomberg

Jason Bloomberg is the leading expert on architecting agility for the enterprise. As president of Intellyx, Mr. Bloomberg brings his years of thought leadership in the areas of Cloud Computing, Enterprise Architecture, and Service-Oriented Architecture to a global clientele of business executives, architects, software vendors, and Cloud service providers looking to achieve technology-enabled business agility across their organizations and for their customers. His latest book, The Agile Architecture Revolution (John Wiley & Sons, 2013), sets the stage for Mr. Bloomberg’s groundbreaking Agile Architecture vision.

Mr. Bloomberg is perhaps best known for his twelve years at ZapThink, where he created and delivered the Licensed ZapThink Architect (LZA) SOA course and associated credential, certifying over 1,700 professionals worldwide. He is one of the original Managing Partners of ZapThink LLC, the leading SOA advisory and analysis firm, which was acquired by Dovel Technologies in 2011. He now runs the successor to the LZA program, the Bloomberg Agile Architecture Course, around the world.

Mr. Bloomberg is a frequent conference speaker and prolific writer. He has published over 500 articles, spoken at over 300 conferences, Webinars, and other events, and has been quoted in the press over 1,400 times as the leading expert on agile approaches to architecture in the enterprise.

Mr. Bloomberg’s previous book, Service Orient or Be Doomed! How Service Orientation Will Change Your Business (John Wiley & Sons, 2006, coauthored with Ron Schmelzer), is recognized as the leading business book on Service Orientation. He also co-authored the books XML and Web Services Unleashed (SAMS Publishing, 2002), and Web Page Scripting Techniques (Hayden Books, 1996).

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).