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IBM CEO ushers in the era of cognitive computing

IBM Chair and CEO Ginny Rometty

Orlando, Fla. – Ginni Rometty was on her way to the IBM Partnerworld Leadership Conference when she got an abrupt call from U.S. President Barack Obama to join him in California for the US-Asean Summit. The IBM CEO told approximately 1,400 channel partners that she decided to accommodate Obama because it was the President’s Day holiday in the U.S.

But right after the summit Rometty made a beeline to Orlando to deliver her fourth Partnerworld keynote address where she officially ushered in the cognitive computing era for IBM and partners.

At her keynote Rometty asked partners, what she called a turning point question: “How many of you are a digital company or are working on becoming one?”

That question was followed by another query: “Who wins when everyone is digital?”

For Rometty becoming a digital company or possibly a digital city or country is just a foundation and not the final destination.

Instead she submitted that cognitive computing is the next step in the digital transformation journey.

Cognitive computing is sometimes referred to artificial intelligence (AI) but in IBM’s version it processes natural language data to produce insights. For example, the word “haircut” usually means the outcome from a trip to the salon. But with cognitive computing, in context, it can determine the result of a bad stock trade.

Rometty is positioning cognitive computing as a platform for the channel that help drive the entire ecosystem of partners to new opportunities.

Some in the channel may determine that cognitive might lead to lower hardware sales, but Rometty countered the argument saying the digital foundations being built today would not diminish hardware and pointed to the $14 billion market for flash storage as an example.

“When everyone is digital; what will separate the winners and the losers?” That was here next question to IBM business partners. Inevitably, she added, it leads to cognitive computing from both a business and technology perspective.

The problem facing people, organizations and governments is that 80 per cent of the data being captured around the world is unstructured including elements such as video, sights and sounds from sensors. All this data can’t be understood.

“The advent of cognitive computing is much more than AI. Its natural language enables people to understand, reasons and learn lessons from the data,” she said.

The Watson technology that in 2011 defeated the Jeopardy champions has grown. Back five year’s ago there were only five technologies. Today, Watson has 32 and Rometty said IBM is working to bring that up to 50 with all accessible APIs.

“The world will be written in software. No longer will we write but compose them in APIs,” she said.

Rometty closed her keynote with a warning. “This shift is inevitable. Without (cognitive computing) will be overwhelmed by the data. We can also solve many of the world’s problems with it.”

Two quick hits before I go. CDN has learned from sources that Microsoft Canada’s top two SVPs Staci Trackey Meagher and Dennis Cerasoli have left the Canadian subsidiary. Meagher ran the Enterprise Group, while Cerasoli ran SMS&P. Both reported directly to Microsoft Canada President Janet Kennedy.