Watson Won Jeopardy, but Is It Smart Enough to Spin Big Blue’s AI Into Green?

In retrospect, there was much more at stake than a mere $1 million when IBM’s Watson computer faced off against two Jeopardy! champions back in 2011. The bot’s victory gave Big Blue a shot at conjuring up a new line of business at the perfect possible moment. A series of advances in image and speech recognition was about to trigger a frenzy of investment and excitement about the moneymaking potential of artificial intelligence.Six years later, it’s fair to ask whether that plan could have been better executed. IBM today is even more urgently in need of new business, with quarterly results released earlier this week showing that revenue has declined for 21 consecutive quarters. CEO Ginny Rommety has made a habit of talking about Watson as a kind of savior, and the company declared this week that this part of the business is growing. But IBM won’t release details on Watson’s financial performance, and skeptics abound. Last week, investment bank Jefferies released a report warning shareholders not to expect IBM’s investments in AI to repay themselves; Watson, it said, risks being eclipsed by competing AI platforms from Google, Amazon, and Microsoft.Talking about Watson is a good way to trigger eye…


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