IBM Jumps the Cognitive Shark


Generally, IT events are pretty subdued affairs. Some good meetings, some good dinners, some boring breakout sessions, and lots of overly ethusiastic marketing claims. IBM's World of Watson was exceptional. The videos felt like days of Superbowl commercials on Watson. Every buzzword was covered: cloud, mobile, social, IoT, open source, analytics. Bingo! Brand name customers dutifully trotted out on stage. IBM said the company's own brand value statement should be "humble genius" but I didn't see much evidence of either attribute. This was the most over-the-top, over-produced brag fest I've seen in years of IT conferences.

I'm conflicted on IBM. The company clearly has a broad and deep portfolio of tools: databases, clouds, data warehouse, analytics, BI, data integration, governance, developer notebooks, etc. They have a robust new strategy to rationalize the customer approach around the Watson Data Platform, Data Science Experience, Cloud Data Services, and a good number of products all now rebuilt as "Watson something." These new offerings have been re-aimed at specific audiences and activities: data scientists, data engineers, business analysts, etc. This should be good news and should help business productivity.

Yet I was oddly left with the feeling that there is no "there" there. IBM is now the epitome of corporate marketing hype. I genuinely believe artificial intelligence, machine learning, and yes, cognitive computing will indeed transform IT. Even transform the world with dramatic applications to solve serious problems. The problem is there are many huge proclamations, reinforced by massive marketing budgets, and yet it's still hard to see how people will actually get there with IBM. Marketing should be re-focused around validation of their bold vision and claims, and helping buyers make informed decisions on the specific advantages of each approach. Less slick, more grit. Prove it.

Topics: IBM Data Management World of Watson WATSON