New IBM Watson Unit Needs To Loosen Up, Iterate and Incubate To Find Full Potential

The latest tech news to come out of IBM this week is a brand new business group to push innovation around the IBM Watson platform, with IBM committed to spending $1B on the new business group, with $100M set aside to fund startups who build on top of the Watson platform.

The introduction of the new business group may be in response to the media’s, and analyst’s chatter about less than impressive results so far with the Watson platform’s ability to generate revenue, with $100M revenue over the last three years, according to the Wall Street Journal.

There was a post on on ReadWrite today, called IBM's Watson Fails To Compute In A World Of Open-Source Hadoop, where Matt Assay nails the reason: Where Are The Watson Developers?

When you visit the "IBM Watson Ecosystem Program”, you get a lot of text, and then even more text contained in PDF’s telling how much you can innovate with the platform. Then when you are ready there is a pretty lengthy form to fill out, where you can tell them what you want to do with Watson, and hit submit and hope they will let you in. They also have a Twitter, Facebook and Youtube account, but really it doesn't smell of “ecosystem” where “innovation” is happening. I've looked at over 10K “ecosystems”, which about less than 500 are truly “innovating”, and after a while you start to be able to smell the signs of success.

I’m not saying the IBM Watson platform doesn’t offer value, I’m just saying the team doesn't know how to make "innovation" happen. They need to loosen up, stop being so enterprise, and open up a little bit. We know you got some APIs behind there, make them accessible to ANYONE, make registration self-service, and give us some dead simple, meaningful, powerful web API endpoints to play with that will stimulate our imaginations.

There are proven ways to limit the access new developers so they don’t get out of hand, and models for developing incentive ladders that incentivize developers to not just play, but actual develop solid apps that can deliver and will actually evolve into real world business models.

Analytics and feedback loops can be put in place that allow you to easily control the moochers and bad actors, while stimulating and listening to the true innovators, allowing the Watson team to iterate and evolve API endpoints that don’t just cater to one industry, but any business sector.

You can’t just develop an powerful resource like Watson, make it available in the cloud, label the platform an“ecosystem”, provide some case studies and innovation magically happens. You have to let go a little, and allow developers to come on board, play, imagine, fail, and push the boundaries of what is possible. This doesn’t happen when you have total control over everything that happens.

Bringing a true developer ecosystem to life around Watson will be more than just about the technology, you need to put in place the essential building blocks developers need to be successful, let a little oxygen into the mix, then I think you will find the innovation and ultimately the revenue you are looking for from Watson.