Oct
28
2018
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Forget Watson, the Red Hat acquisition may be the thing that saves IBM

With its latest $34 billion acquisition of Red Hat, IBM may have found something more elementary than “Watson” to save its flagging business.

Though the acquisition of Red Hat  is by no means a guaranteed victory for the Armonk, N.Y.-based computing company that has had more downs than ups over the five years, it seems to be a better bet for “Big Blue” than an artificial intelligence program that was always more hype than reality.

Indeed, commentators are already noting that this may be a case where IBM finally hangs up the Watson hat and returns to the enterprise software and services business that has always been its core competency (albeit one that has been weighted far more heavily on consulting services — to the detriment of the company’s business).

Watson, the business division focused on artificial intelligence whose public claims were always more marketing than actually market-driven, has not performed as well as IBM had hoped and investors were losing their patience.

Critics — including analysts at the investment bank Jefferies (as early as one year ago) — were skeptical of Watson’s ability to deliver IBM from its business woes.

As we wrote at the time:

Jefferies pulls from an audit of a partnership between IBM Watson and MD Anderson as a case study for IBM’s broader problems scaling Watson. MD Anderson cut its ties with IBM after wasting $60 million on a Watson project that was ultimately deemed, “not ready for human investigational or clinical use.”

The MD Anderson nightmare doesn’t stand on its own. I regularly hear from startup founders in the AI space that their own financial services and biotech clients have had similar experiences working with IBM.

The narrative isn’t the product of any single malfunction, but rather the result of overhyped marketing, deficiencies in operating with deep learning and GPUs and intensive data preparation demands.

That’s not the only trouble IBM has had with Watson’s healthcare results. Earlier this year, the online medical journal Stat reported that Watson was giving clinicians recommendations for cancer treatments that were “unsafe and incorrect” — based on the training data it had received from the company’s own engineers and doctors at Sloan-Kettering who were working with the technology.

All of these woes were reflected in the company’s latest earnings call where it reported falling revenues primarily from the Cognitive Solutions business, which includes Watson’s artificial intelligence and supercomputing services. Though IBM chief financial officer pointed to “mid-to-high” single digit growth from Watson’s health business in the quarter, transaction processing software business fell by 8% and the company’s suite of hosted software services is basically an afterthought for business gravitating to Microsoft, Alphabet, and Amazon for cloud services.

To be sure, Watson is only one of the segments that IBM had been hoping to tap for its future growth; and while it was a huge investment area for the company, the company always had its eyes partly fixed on the cloud computing environment as it looked for areas of growth.

It’s this area of cloud computing where IBM hopes that Red Hat can help it gain ground.

“The acquisition of Red Hat is a game-changer. It changes everything about the cloud market,” said Ginni Rometty, IBM Chairman, President and Chief Executive Officer, in a statement announcing the acquisition. “IBM will become the world’s number-one hybrid cloud provider, offering companies the only open cloud solution that will unlock the full value of the cloud for their businesses.”

The acquisition also puts an incredible amount of marketing power behind Red Hat’s various open source services business — giving all of those IBM project managers and consultants new projects to pitch and maybe juicing open source software adoption a bit more aggressively in the enterprise.

As Red Hat chief executive Jim Whitehurst told TheStreet in September, “The big secular driver of Linux is that big data workloads run on Linux. AI workloads run on Linux. DevOps and those platforms, almost exclusively Linux,” he said. “So much of the net new workloads that are being built have an affinity for Linux.”

Oct
04
2017
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Rasa Core kicks up the context for chatbots

 Context is everything when dealing with dialog systems. We humans take for granted how complex even our simplest conversations are. That’s part of the reason why dialog systems can’t live up to their human counterparts. But with an interactive learning approach and some open source love, Berlin-based Rasa is hoping to help enterprises solve their conversational AI problems. The… Read More

Sep
19
2017
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Google Cloud’s Natural Language API gets content classification and more granular sentiment analysis

 Google Cloud announced two updates this morning to its Natural Language API. Specifically users will now have access to content classification and entity sentiment analysis. These features are particularly valuable for brands and media companies For starters, GCP users will now be able to tag content as corresponding with common topics like health, entertainment and law (cc: Henry).… Read More

Sep
18
2017
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Ethereum will replace Visa in a ‘couple of years’ says founder

 The mind behind Ethereum, Vitalik Buterin, is matter-of-fact about the crypto. In short, he believes what interviewer Raval Navikant called “brain virus” is the true future of security and economics and, with the right incentives, Ethereum can replace things like credit card networks and even gaming servers. Buterin separates the world into two kinds of people. “There’s… Read More

Sep
18
2017
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Matroid picks up $10M Series A to automate video stream monitoring

 As computer vision and object recognition technology continue to mature, we’re edging closer to automating away the exceedingly boring task of monitoring closed circuit TV cameras. Matroid is one of the startups leading the democratization of this variety of machine intelligence. The company is announcing a $10 million Series A this morning from NEA and Intel Capital that brings… Read More

Sep
15
2017
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A typical day for researchers on Google’s Brain Team

 What do you and researchers on Google’s Brain Team have most in common? You both probably spend a lot of time triaging email. In a Reddit AMA, 11 Google AI researchers took time to share the activities that consume the greatest chunks of their days. Email was a frequent topic of conversation, in addition to less banal activities like skimming academic papers and brainstorming with… Read More

Sep
14
2017
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Facebook is the latest tech giant to hunt for AI talent in Canada

 Facebook is turning its attention to Canada with a new AI research office in Montreal. Google and Microsoft already have outposts in the city and countless other tech companies, including Uber, have researchers based in Canada. McGill University’s Joelle Pineau will be leading Facebook’s AI efforts in Montreal. Pineau’s research focus tends to lean heavily on robotics and… Read More

Aug
22
2017
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Microsoft Brainwave aims to accelerate deep learning with FPGAs

 This afternoon Microsoft announced Brainwave, an FPGA-based system for ultra-low latency deep learning in the cloud. Early benchmarking indicates that when using Intel Stratix 10 FPGAs, Brainwave can sustain 39.5 Teraflops on a large gated recurrent unit without any batching. Read More

Jul
27
2017
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Intel beats earnings expectations as it manages to maintain growth in its Data Center Group

 Intel declared $14.8 billion in revenue this afternoon and earnings per share of 72 cents. This represents a solid beat as analysts had expected revenues of $14.41 billion and EPS of 68 cents. The company’s  stock finished up 22 cents and 0.63 percent to $34.97 per share in regular trading. In the moments after the company released its earnings, Intel’s stock shot up 3.43 percent. Read More

Jul
10
2017
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How Bassem Hamdy aims to disrupt the construction industry

 Construction – the actual process of putting brick on brick to build something – is still in the dark ages. While there is plenty of technology out there to help plan massive projects few people are thinking hard about what it takes to actually build. Luckily Bassem Hamdy is one the case. Hamdy works for Procore Technologies where he and his team build products to help… Read More

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