An App Store and Service to Completely Change the World

We are standing in the middle of one of the major turning points in technology history.

We will only know whether that statement is true in retrospect in a few years time but I believe that the developments around the Watson computing model are creating a new wave of innovation possibilities.

ZDNET has reported on IBM setting up a Watson division with $1 billion dollars in funding and 2,000 employees to leverage the investment that has gone into developing the Watson cognitive computing model:

IBM forms Watson Business Group: Will commercialization follow?

Including:

The Watson Business Group will break down into four groups:

  • One focused on research and development on cognitive computing.
  • Another aimed at applying Watson to new industries to “disrupt and transform how business is done.”
  • An implementation group to ensure Watson has services support to keep customers satisfied. 
  • An engagement team to sell and market Watson.

and

Specifically, IBM is launching the following Watson cloud services:

  • IBM Watson Discovery Advisor is aimed at pharmaceutical, publishing and education research. The promise here is that Watson will wade through search results to deliver data and context faster for researchers.
  • IBM Watson Analytics Advisor is designed to be used by enterprises to send questions and raw data sets to Watson and allow the system to deliver insight.

and:

Big Blue said it will invest $1 billion into the Watson division including $100 million to fund startups developing cognitive apps

This follows a story in The Verge in the middle of November announcing that Watson was being opened up to developers through an API that would allow people to build applications on top of its platform:

IBM’s more powerful Watson supercomputer is opening up for public use

The combination of natural language/cognitive computing capability, with the system operating as a platform that others can build new applications on is analogous to the levels of innovation that we have seen in smartphone and tablet application markets in the last few years. The major difference is that the focus will be almost purely on applications that can disrupt whole systems and industries deliberately.

The value in the app development market has been twofold:

  1. The possibilities envisaged by tens of thousands of developers all around the world adds hugely to the perspectives and possible ideas that can be generated compared to keeping things in house.
  2. The fact that all those people are prepared to risk their money and time to try stuff has bypassed the normal “MBA spreadsheet” assessment of ideas and funding so that lots more stuff has been tried. Trying more stuff means more stuff gets to prove it can work.

This has led to a huge flowering of applications, many of them trivial but some of them have been fantastic and world changing.

This can lead to big bang disruption as described by Steve Denning in his review of the book of the same name : Big Business’s Worst Nightmare

If IBM and Watson and the developers involved can get this right then I expect much higher levels of big bang disruption over the next few years. This means that the levels of change experienced by people and business over the next decade might pale into insignificance over the next decade.

As my friend Stowe Boyd would say: “welcome to the post normal!”

Paul Higgins

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3 thoughts on “An App Store and Service to Completely Change the World

  1. Hi Paul,
    thanks for the post. The last embedded link “Big Business’s Worst Nightmare” has a lot to consider. From my own position there is a sense of being an observer seeing massive change, having lived through a lot of it and now the pace is almost fatiguing. It almost requires we focus and specialise because we just cannot do it all be it all, be faster, be better, be cheaper. It seems like the mad gold rush territorial claims but over and over and over until we almost don’t care anymore. The comment in Big Business’s Worst Nightmare …”The disruptions are not affecting merely obscure corners of the economy: “Drive down any downtown street and look at the empty storefronts. Many of them were occupied by bookstores, camera retailers and film processors, office supply shops, post offices, travel agencies and big box electronics and appliance sellers.”is patently obvious everywhere. What happens to our sense of the social and communal? We are all now glued online in a virtual world but killing off our real world. A big big worry.

    Although technology has brought us wonders the paradox is that it is also wearing and tearing us down. Slowly slowly we are fatiguing and perhaps should be looking for how technology can benefit us socially and communally and not just be faster, so called better, or cheaper (at whose or what expense).

    When big business and R&D takes a human centered approach I’ll start to reengage again with technology however for now the ‘gold rush’ seems to be missing the point of why?, what for?, where are we as humanity heading? ..and do we want to go there? As an observer at the moment I ponder and ponder, wonder and worry. Lots of gliiter and bells, and again technology has brought us massive leaps ahead in mere generations but what will our next generation become if technology remains at the centre and not our collective humanity?

    Big bang disruption and “the ongoing phenomenon of fast-paced large-scale disruption“ these articles are definately food for thought and the quote “Customers have effectively become the boss. Big bang disruption is just one of the more dramatic symptoms of this broader and deeper economic phase change: the emergence of the Creative Economy, where continuous transformational innovation is the the game being played.” I’m not sure if this is good, bad or other just observing, thinking and wondering what it all means as I suspect most are.

    Thanks again Paul for a thought provoking post.
    Cheers Brett

    • Thanks Brett

      Lots of good questions there. We are actually involved with a project looking at the future of the Bendigo Community Bank at the moment and the issues of massive change while being connected to the community are the big questions.

      I certainly think the issue of change fatigue is rampant out there. My problem is that I cannot see it changing and to a large extent thrive on it so I have to be careful to be empathetic with the views of people who struggle with it.

      The great thing is the the changes have at least wrought a greater degree of choice and power to the individual. It remains to see how that continues and how well people take advantage of it.

      Paul

  2. Hey there! This post couldn’t be written any better! Reading through this post reminds me of my old room mate! He always kept talking about this. I will forward this post to him. Pretty sure he will have a good read. Thanks for sharing!

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