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IBM's Palmisano returns fire, touts Watson

ORLANDO, FL.–IBM chairman Sam Palmisano may have been jet lagged, flying 7,000 miles to Orlando from Asia, but he was feisty enough to take some shots at unnamed competitors.

Unlike rival Oracle CEO Larry Ellison –who relishes tweaking IBM, SAP and others by name– Palmisano didn’t specify his targets.  But you can probably guess who they are.

An example:

“You have to move up the value chain. What makes you unique and different? Why would someone give you their money or their trust if you’re saying you’re just like everybody else but cheaper. ‘Hey i run the most efficient supply chain in the world.’ Who cares? They care about doing real things and solving problems



“We don’t slap things together and say we broke a benchmark. ‘Hey, I’m fast, I’m cool.’  We have Watson.”

Watson, the self-teaching, natural-language-proficient IBM computer that famously tied former Jeopardy champions last night on TV, got a lot of play Tuesday.

 Watson technology will have applicability beyond game shows, Palmisano told some 1,500 business partners, reporters and analysts here at the first IBM PartnerWorld event in three years. “Imagine if our financial systems were learning [like Watson learns]. Would the [economic] dip have been as extreme as it was? If implemented, these kinds of systems can do real-time monitoring.”

Some IBM  customers in Asia want to apply Watson technology to cardiac care immediately, he said. In theory, a Watson could digest all the case history data to help diagnose cardiac problems, Palmisano said.

Palmisano encouraged IBM partners –VARs, systems integrators, ISVs and others — to invest in their skills so they can differentiate themselves.  In some cases, partners could get involved in advanced proof-of-concept projects that show off the fruits of IBM R&D in action at customer sites, he said.

Partners can “join us on a project and obviously, as a member, they learn associated skills.” Such projects require a  willing customer and are designed to implement pure, deep IBM research in the field, he said.  

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