IBM CEO Ginni Rometty Presents at IBM Watson Group Launch Event (Full Transcript)

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty and Watson Group SVP Michael Rhodin introduced a new business with Watson clients, partners, and executives on January 9, 2014 in New York. Here is the full transcript of the IBM event….



Ginni Rometty – CEO, IBM

I am so happy to see everyone here. This is a wonderful day, not only for our company but for our clients, for this industry. And what I am here to tell you about is the formation of something called the IBM Watson Group.

Now, for those of you that watch us, we don’t create new units very often. But when we do, it’s because we see something that is a major, major shift that we believe in. It happened in the 1960s. If you study IBM, we had a unit all around something then called the System/360, later known as the mainframe.

Then again in the ‘80s, it was the IBM PC. The ‘90s, we started IBM Global Services. Today is another such moment.

Today is an important moment in our company’s history, and it is also an important moment in the history of technology. And you’ll hear all about this from Mike Rhodin, our Senior Vice President of the Watson Group. He, along with clients, launch partners who are incredibly excited, will all be up here to tell you about Watson. As well, I mean this journey is only beginning; you will hear from Research on everything yet to come.

Eras of Computing

But what I want to do with you is I want to put this in context. To date, to date there have only been two prior eras of computing. The first was called tabulating. It was machines that did just what it says, they counted. This was, as you would guess, the mid 19th century, Herman Hollerith. This was punchcards, this is when IBM did things like the census, Social Security systems. It was the foundation for finance, control, inventory control.

Then, the second era, programmable era. Just what it sounds like, if, then. If, then. You had to program it, tell it what to do. And it is everything that you know to this day. We did it first with the mainframes in the ‘50s and ‘60s. Then it was PCs, tablets, smartphones, anything that’s out there today, it is programmed.

But 2011 — 2011 we introduced a new era to you. And it is a third era, it is cognitive. It is systems that learn. They are not programmed; they learn, and we debuted this on the video you saw, with the something called Watson, and it played Jeopardy.

Now, many remember it defeated the two all-time human champions. But I don’t think everyone understood what was happening behind the icon as it ran. It was a new species, if I can call it that. It is taught, it’s not programmed. By design, it learns by experience, and it learns from interaction. And by design it gets smarter over time and better judgments over time.

But I think what’s most important for right now, for all of us, why we took Watson on, it’s built for a world of big data: 2.5 billion gigabytes per day gets created, and it has — and I underscore the word — “potential” to transform industries and professions everywhere. And to be unleashed, I want you to think about this, though. To unleash all that insights of all this data and I know many of you work on this, you need this new era. In my view, Watson is just in time. A cognitive era is just in time. And this is not just data that the world thinks of as structured; the data you and I can picture in rows and columns.

But 80% of the world is unstructured, tweets, blogs, pictures. And then there’s all this other data about data. Right? So my location, about an object, about a test. And in fact, I think to understand this, what Watson does because you don’t program it, it’s thousands and thousands of algorithms that run, and they improve and they get better and then more algorithms are created.

In fact, I was talking to many of you out there, those of you on Watson now, you have to experience it to see the difference because it is not a super search engine. It can find a needle in a haystack, but it understands the haystack. It is about relations, correlations that you will never see. And this is why we called it a grand challenge when we undertook it.

And you interact with data in a new way. Natural language, and it understands the implications of your questions. And in fact, soon you’re going to hear from Guru, it will ask you clarifying questions back. So, today is about Watson to a new level.

We started with what we call in Research a grand challenge — something that we don’t think the world has yet solved or could solve. It starts as a grand challenge. We then did the work to be sure it could be commercially viable. And it has already begun transforming industries. You are going to hear from many of these partners and you will see and experience it outside. But, as well a growing ecosystem.

So, the world will experience Watson four ways that you will get a taste of today: transformational solutions; enterprise solutions; I said, a huge ecosystem; and then, something called Watson Foundations. So, let me give you just a real fast word on each.

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