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Watson shows his business smarts with $1bn investment from IBM

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Thu Jan 09 2014, 16:45

BIG BLUE IBM is planning to create a business around its game-show winning Watson supercomputer.

Watson is IBM's chess-playing, Jeopardy-winning cognitive computer. It regularly gets an airing by IBM, and it looks likely to gain even more exposure thanks to the business unit that IBM will throw up around it.

Luddites might suggest that IBM's $1bn investment plan might have come from Watson itself, but that's a bit of a stretch.

The IBM Watson Twitter account has been excitedly putting up images and short statements about the venture for most of the day. IBM plans to launch the business unit at the unfinished World Trade Center site in New York.

"IBM Watson is moving to New York as part of IBM's $1bn investment in the development and commercialisation of Watson technology," reads a splash page about the endeavour. "A large part of this initiative will be devoted to helping developers and entrepreneurs build a new class of applications, powered by Watson."

IBM's Watson initiative will include a few areas, including incubator and design centres. The venture will be led by Michael Rhodin, who will come to the newly created role from his seat as SVP of the IBM Software Solutions Group.

"IBM has transformed Watson from a quiz-show winner, into a commercial cognitive computing breakthrough that is helping businesses engage customers, healthcare organisations personalise patient care, and entrepreneurs build businesses," said Rhodin in a statement.

"Watson is one of the most significant innovations in IBM's 100-year history, and one that we want to share with the world. With these investments we strive to make new markets, reach new buyers, and transform industries and professions."

Watson will drive new business in data-driven industries like healthcare and financials, and the technology will be provided to customers through Softlayer. The Watson computer system, which was room sized when it took on and beat people at Jeopardy, is now no bigger than a three-high stack of pizza boxes. Now it is 24 times faster too, said IBM. µ


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