IBM's Watson gets its own business

Published on NewsOK Modified: January 9, 2014 at 3:57 pm •  Published: January 9, 2014
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NEW YORK (AP) — One of the most famous "Jeopardy!" champs of all time is moving to Manhattan.

No, it's not Ken Jennings.

IBM announced Thursday that it's investing more than $1 billion to give its Watson cloud computing system its own business division and a new home in New York City.

The Armonk, N.Y.-based computing company said the new business unit will be dedicated to the development and commercialization of the project that first gained fame by defeating a pair of "Jeopardy!" champions, including 74-time winner Jennings, in 2011.

In the years since Watson's TV appearance, IBM has been developing the computing system for more practical purposes and changed it to a cloud-based service. While still in the development phase, Watson's massive analytical capabilities are currently being used in industries ranging from health care to banking.

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty said what makes Watson unique is that it isn't programmed like most computers. Instead of relying only on the information that's put into it, Watson learns by "reading" vast amounts of information and combining it with the results of previous work to find answers to problems — which she says makes it ideal for the reams of data now involved in many industries.

IBM is building a new headquarters for the business on the edge of New York City's East Village near New York University and other technology companies. In addition to its marketing and engineering capabilities, the new headquarters also will provide a place for IBM to collaborate with clients and startup companies that are building apps for Watson. IBM will invest about $100 million in various startup companies working on Watson projects.

Rometty said at an event announcing the move Thursday in New York that it's those collaborations with startups and clients that will help find new uses for the Watson technology.

Eventually the business, which started out as a team of 27 people, will employ about 2,000, with several hundred set to move into the new headquarters.