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IBM's Watson supercomputer gets its own business

IBM Struggles to Turn Watson Computer Into Big Business

NEW YORK (AP) - One of the most famous "Jeopardy!" champs of all time is moving to Manhattan.

No, it's not Ken Jennings.

IBM announced Thursday that it's investing over $1 billion to give its Watson supercomputer its own business division and a new home in the heart of New York City.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based computing company said the new business unit will be dedicated to the development and commercialization of the project that first gained fame by defeating a pair of "Jeopardy!" champions, including 74-time winner Jennings, in 2011.

In the years since Watson's TV appearance, IBM has been developing the supercomputer for more practical purposes and changed it to a cloud-based service. Its massive data-crunching capabilities are currently being used in industries ranging from health care to banking.

IBM says Watson is unique because it it's programed like traditional computers. It has the ability to learn from its past experiences and factor that information into its future operations.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said that as a result, Watson is built for a world where big data is transforming every industry and every profession.

"Watson does more than find the needle in the haystack," Rometty said in remarks released ahead of the company's Thursday presentation. "It understands the haystack. It understands context."

As part of its investment, IBM is building a new headquarters for the business on the edge of New York City's East Village near New York University and other technology companies. About $100 million will go toward investing in startup companies that are building apps to be run through Watson.

Eventually the business, which started out as a team of 27 people, will employ about 2,000, including several hundred at the new headquarters, IBM said.

Michael Rhodin, a long-time IBM executive named to lead the new business, said the move marks the start of a new era for IBM and the new headquarters is meant to be a departure from the project's current research facility's sleepier surroundings about 40 miles north of the city in Yorktown Heights, N.Y.

The angular glass building also will stand out from the rest of its neighborhood, which is home to some of the oldest buildings in the city.

"The millennial generation gets this, they understand that this is," Rhodin said in an interview ahead of the announcement. "This is a departure. It's a statement on our part."

The will have marketing and sales capabilities, while also hosting engineering and development work and collaborations with customers and startup companies looking to utilize Watson's capabilities.

Join the discussion

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kghean January 09 2014 at 1:48 PM

Glad to see Big Blue make a bold move. I'm disappointed this blog has such mindless, petty comments. A waste of time to read. Now add mine comments among them!

Flag Reply +2 rate up
lajocanda January 09 2014 at 10:29 AM

Colossus, the Forbin Project

Flag Reply +1 rate up
rockbotmbob January 09 2014 at 10:55 AM

Maybe Watson can find a way to keep Rodman in North Korea, permanently!!!

Flag Reply +3 rate up
ejw1977 January 09 2014 at 11:20 AM

Well done! This was truly a no brainer. Good move into NYC, powerful tech community that gets overshadowed, but rising..

Flag Reply +1 rate up
d305feihc January 09 2014 at 12:31 PM

Like the old Star Trek episode where they introduced the M5 computer, ..... this one "thinks". BEWARE!

Flag Reply +5 rate up
1 reply
jhargraves1 d305feihc January 09 2014 at 12:45 PM

Back in the 70's a movie was made call the FORBIN PROJECT about 2 super computers one was call the Guardian built by the Russians the other was call Colossus built by United States both computers started talking to one another and eventually merge with Colossus taking over the world makes you wonder.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
johnspedersen January 09 2014 at 11:18 AM

Watson + drones = Skynet! Oh my!

Flag Reply +1 rate up
mociambz January 09 2014 at 11:21 AM

nsa comes to nyc the democrats should love that they voted for it

Flag Reply +1 rate up
gggaloha January 09 2014 at 3:03 PM

They should rename Watson to Hal

Flag Reply +1 rate up
BlackDeep January 09 2014 at 2:45 PM

Hello Dave. Or do we call it Sky Net.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
Steve January 09 2014 at 11:59 AM

Come back to Endicott, where it all began and open up the buildings you abandoned.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
2 replies
rayandjo Steve January 09 2014 at 1:03 PM

Or Poughkeepsie or Kingston. There were some of us who believed the mainframe wasn't dead back in the eighty's.

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Business Partner Steve January 09 2014 at 1:20 PM

IBM has abandoned more than buildings. IBM has abandoned people, long-term loyal employees. The Watson's built a wonderful company based on respect for the individual which Gerstner threw away as not profitable. Consequently, the company who used to be #1 as the place to work is no longer voted in the top 100. Future job applicants: Beware the way IBM will treat you like dirt and throw you away is you don't show your way to creating a profit. Money is the new IBM God and the Watsons are rolling over in their graves.

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