Are IBM’s Watson Product Problems the Result of a Confusing Market Message?

Spencer E. Ante recently wrote an article about IBM and its Watson super computer for the online Wall Street Journal. In an article titled IBM Struggles to Turn Watson Computer Into Big Business, He contends sales for this product have failed to meet up to expectations.

The revenue shortfall appears to be very significant. Mr. Ante recounts how “IBM Chief Executive Virginia “Ginni” Rometty . . . told executives she hopes Watson will generate $10 billion in annual revenue within 10 years, according to an October 2013 conference-call transcript reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.” (quoted from Mr. Ante’s article, a link to which has been provided above). But sales of the product were reported to be only $100Mil earlier in the same month.

But what kind of product is Watson? Are we talking about a super computer challenging the television game show “Jeopardy”, or are we talking about ” . . . a development platform in the Cloud to spur innovation and fuel a new ecosystem of entrepreneurial software app providers who will bring forward a new generation of applications” (this quote is excerpted from the front page of IBM’s online presentation of the Watson product. Or are we talking about ” . . . analytical software [with an] ability to ‘learn.'” (quoted from Mr. Ante’s article)

Markets don’t handle ambiguous products very well, and purchase them on a very slow schedule. Perhaps IBM product managers should take a step back to objectively sample marketplace perception of what Watson, the product, is all about, and redesign promotional messaging to better convey the message markets need to hear.

In 2014 enterprise consumers can select solutions from a variety of sources for any of the services it appears Watson can offer. Perhaps IBM is aware of the urgency and is moving, expeditiously, to clean up the brand for this product. If not, it makes sense for them to do so as quickly as possible.

Ira Michael Blonder

© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2013 All Rights Reserved

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