Sunday, February 27, 2011

IBM and Watson

I apologize if this offends anyone, but I'm pretty much anti-IBM.  I have been since the 1980's.  At almost every turn of business execution they've made a focused decision to hand the ball to the other side and let them score.  Or even worse: they've set the ball down and walked away from it.

So when I hear people commend the virtues of Watson and what "it did" on Jeopardy, I want to puke.  Why is it that a company that blew it with mass-market mainframe dominance, the short-lived stewardship of the PC platform, the blunder of OS/2 and the continued erosion of Lotus platforms, is now suddenly an amazing source of "decision making automation" via Watson?  This is like Dr. Kevorkian coming out with a longevity elixir.

Don't get me wrong. I applaud the innovative history of IBM.  They've been no less than amazing throughout the past fifty years, when it comes to R & D.  It's the marketing and support side that sucks.  I'm sure Watson can do amazing things.  The history of IBM has always had two distinct faces: Business and R&D.  But if Watson was programmed to "think" by the Business group minds that "think" up their marketing strategy, well, I'm not asking it to recommend a dinner menu.

It's also a little more than ironic that Thomas Sr. adamantly refused to believe computers would (or could) ever be of use to the general public.  His quotes to Jr. are legendary in the textbook examples of short-sightedness.  So I'm just a little confused as to whether their latest uber-cruncher is named after Sr. or Jr.

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