IBM Hopes To Make Some Money With Watson - And Not A "Jeopardy" Prize

Remember when IBM's Watson supercomputer took on a couple of human competitors on the TV game show "Jeopardy" - and won? That piece of technological theater was just the thing to raise public awareness that IBM had something that might be a bit beyond what we typically think of as a computer, or even of artificial intelligence. IBM has been working away, integrating Watson technology into medicine and other fields, and now feels they can actually start to make money with Watson-based products; so much so, they are sinking $1 billion into the venture.
In short, IBM played the Watson effort like a startup inside the company. Many startups take years to make any kind of money—indeed many carry on for a few years in stealth mode until they can get traction enough to make a splash. As Watson got its initial exposure by beating human competitors on the Jeopardy game show, operating in stealth mode was not possible. However, IBM chose that venue.

The company is not without its faults, but judging Watson now is premature. There was only one Watson-based product before this week—the Watson Engagement Advisor, announced last May. In my opinion, IBM didn't go on the clock with Watson until November when it gave third-party developers access to Watson via the Watson Developer Cloud and announced an ecosystem for the technology.