IBM wants to bring Watson -- the company's artificial intelligence platform -- to the masses. First known as a supercomputer of sorts, Watson technology is now rolling out in a range of easier-to-consume ways, including a Watson Analytics cloud service.

Available now as a  beta preview, "IBM Watson Analytics automates the once time-consuming tasks such as data preparation, predictive analysis, and visual storytelling for business professionals," IBM claims.

Offered as a cloud-based freemium service, all business users can now access Watson Analytics from any desktop or mobile device. More than 22,000 people have registered for the beta since IBM announced plans for the offering on Sept. 16.

Investors and potential customers have been watching Watson closely, wondering about adoption rates, customer use cases and potential revenue from the artificial intelligence system. Although a Watson-Twitter partnership announcement in October 2014 sounded promising, additional challenges loom

Watson's success is particularly critical to IBM. The company is striving to drive more revenues from Big Data, cloud and mobile services amid weaker demand for traditional hardware, software and IT services. IBM's revenues have been flat or fallen for 10 consecutive quarters.

Potential -- though unproven -- Watson rivals also are popping up. Sentient Technologies, an artificial intelligence startup, recently raised $103.5 million in Series C funding to make sure the company's platform can "make sense of massive amounts of data." And in some ways, Hadoop-type services like HP Vertica could compete with Watson Analytics.

IBM's list of Watson opportunities certainly is lengthy, but so is the list of potential Big Data market alternatives -- both on-premises and in the cloud.

 

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