At IBM's Pulse 2011, a high-ranking IBM exec says IBM's Watson technology can do what Google does, but IBM has no interest in the traditional search business model.
LAS VEGAS-IBM has the capability to
compete with Google or Microsoft's Bing in the search arena, but the company
has no interest in moving in that direction despite the strong showing IBM
made in answering a variety of complex questions with its Watson
supercomputer in a "Jeopardy!" quiz show competition.
IBM's Pulse 2011
systems and service management show here, Steve Mills, IBM's senior vice
president and group executive of software and systems, told a still very
Watson-hungry press corps that although Watson demonstrated that it could have
a much better success rate at getting to a specifically correct answer to a
complex query than a Google search, IBM has other plans for the technology and
its natural language processing and DeepQA (Question
learned a lot about what it would take to make it [Watson] commercial,"
Mills said. "We've capitalized on many, many decades of accumulated
Big Blue has some distinct ideas for where to take the Watson technology, most
likely toward creating "mini Watsons or baby Watsons," Mills said. IBM
announced a partnership with Nuance Communications to incorporate Watson
technology into health care applications. But beyond that, IBM
has made no commitments, certainly not in search.
business is about displacing what had been direct mail," Mills said. "IBM
is out to make money on its technology. There is a business model behind Google
for doing what they do. They're moving money that would have otherwise been spent
to them. There's a big expense there, and we're not interested in competing
with Google in the business they're in. We're interested in helping businesses
get to the bottom of problems and answer questions they run into to improve the
quality of their products and services, and enhance loyalty and increase
the Google model, companies are paying for relevancy and coming up first, Mills
said. "There's always been money spent on that, and Google's moved in to
capitalize on that. And people have asked us, 'Why can't IBM
bring its technology to bear on that-especially where people are not thrilled
with the accuracy [of Google searches]?'"
"We know how to do what they do, but it doesn't make sense to spend a
massive amount of money to do some sort of super Web crawling system. You've
been watching what's going on with Bing," Mills quipped to eWEEK.
said IBM did not build Watson in the Google
model. "We built it to come back with THE answer or a relatively few
answers and then you apply your judgment on top of that."
that regard, Mills said he believes Watson will do well in an assistant's role
in various industries such as health care, law and call centers.
can certainly see this technology as a physician's assistant, not a replacement
for the physician. We're trying to come up with practical applications where we
can add support for finding the right answers. How much better would the humans
have been [on Jeopardy!] if they had their own Watson in their pocket?"
officials said the DeepQA project at IBM
shapes a grand challenge in computer science that aims to illustrate how the
wide and growing accessibility of natural language content and the integration
and advancement of natural language processing, information retrieval, machine
learning, knowledge representation and reasoning, and massively parallel
computation can drive open-domain automatic question-answering technology to a
point where it consistently rivals the best human performance.
Darryl K. Taft covers the development tools and developer-related issues beat from his office in Baltimore. He has more than 10 years of experience in the business and is always looking for the next scoop. Taft is a member of the Association for Computing Machinery (ACM) and was named 'one of the most active middleware reporters in the world' by The Middleware Co. He also has his own card in the 'Who's Who in Enterprise Java' deck.