What Carrie Underwood’s success teaches us about IBM’s Watson failure

underwood (1)I have a TV producer friend I worked with years ago who at some point landed as one of the many producers of American Idol when that singing show was a monster hit dominating U.S. television. She later told me an interesting story about Carrie Underwood, the country-western singer who won American Idol Season 4. That story can stand as a lesson applicable to far more than just TV talent shows. It’s especially useful for the purposes of this column for explaining IBM’s Watson technology and associated products. You see the producers of American Idol Season 4 knew before the season was half over that Underwood would win. And, by the same token, […]

Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Watson

Next month an IBM computer called Watson will go head-to-head against the top two human Jeopardy champs for a prize worth $1 million. Whether Watson wins or not, what I wonder about this contest that was four years and untold millions of dollars in the making is how it squares with the image I’ve presented here over the last several years of a penny-pinching, greedy, avaricious, and not particularly smart IBM? The answer is simple: IBM has a split personality.

IBM values research and development. The research organizations like the one behind this Jeopardy stunt still share in a specific percentage of IBM’s gross sales. That’s how IBM keeps coming up with […]