IBM Selling Watson, See My 2012 Prediction

IBM announced that it sold Watson, the Jeopardy winning computer spend-a-thon marketing ploy that was at best a failure in AI.

I wrote in 2012 that it was an advertising gimmick, and that it wouldn’t succeed.

I was in a meeting with Sam Palmisano (then chairman), who said that it wasn’t that big of a deal. It could have been, but wasn’t.

I worked with the people in IBM Research and they are some of the most creative and intelligent people on the planet. Some are so far out there that we couldn’t let them talk to reporters as they’d tell the world the keys to the castle. There has been stuff that never made it out the door, which would have started billion dollar businesses. TPTB at IBM couldn’t recognize this, or it wasn’t strategic (read make money on mainframes). They dropped the ball again on this one.

It is the marketing pukes that grab onto something at IBM and try to ride it for publicity and sales. I saw through it then and it is coming to fruition. That’s why I wrote what I did in 2012. Gini Rometty failed on this one. Sam handed her a golden goose and it got fiddle farted away in the AI world.

Here is an excerpt from the WSJ (you may need a subscription, but look at the last line about it not being a success).

International Business Machines Corp. IBM -1.12% agreed to sell the data and analytics assets from its Watson Health business to investment firm Francisco Partners, the companies said Friday.

The deal is the latest step by IBM to refocus its core business around the cloud. The Wall Street Journal reported last year that IBM was exploring a sale of its healthcare-analytics business as a way to streamline the computing giant’s operations and sharpen its focus on computing services provided via the internet. The Watson Health business uses artificial intelligence to analyze diagnostic tests and other health data and to manage care.

IBM had big aspirations for its Watson artificial intelligence to help in medical research and improve patient outcomes, but the technology’s impact has fallen short of early hopes. Partners and clients have moved away from projects that were built around Watson technology in recent years, although IBM had spent billions of dollars making acquisitions to bolster the business.

“IBM took a risk of becoming a disrupter in the complex health care industry but was only able to garner limited success,” UBS analyst David Vogt said in a note Friday. He added that the Francisco transaction probably wouldn’t have a big financial impact for IBM because of the unit’s limited success.

The big IBM secret is that it is a mainframe company still. It’s software sales are all big iron related. It’s re-focused cloud strategy runs on, you guessed it, a mainframe. They have jettisoned divisions that weren’t money makers and Watson had outlived it’s marketing hype and didn’t cure cancer.

IBM is admitting AI failure by calling it the sale of a non-strategic asset. This message of course like most of the stuff coming out of IBM is bullshit.

At the end of the day, it won Jeopardy. Deep Blue won chess. IBM sells mainframes.