On September 6, 2014, the New York Times published an article written by Steve Lohr on, arguably, a new look for IBM’s Watson machine learning solution, which is, apparently, an ambidextrous tool. This time Watson was said to be powering a rich set of BI dashboards displayed on an iPad. The article is titled IBM Offers a Data Tool for the Mainstream, With Watson’s Help.
The image displayed on the web page presenting this article says a lot. A woman holds an Apple iPad tablet computer, which is exposing a set of Business Intelligence (BI) charts, dials, and the rest of the usual accoutrements of what are commonly referred to as “dashboards”. Presumably the woman holding the tablet is an example of Gartner’s notion of a “citizen developer”, meaning the type of power user targeted by this marketing effort for Watson. For readers otherwise unfamiliar with the notion, a “citizen developer” is an enterprise business user, with some authority, who maintains a voracious appetite for technology, but can’t write software, and has little interest in learning how to code. These people devour so-called “no-code” applications built on workflows.
By “says a lot”, this writer means the notion of someone (like the woman depicted in the image, who is enthusiastic about technology) high on energy, but low on computer programming skills, successfully creating a full-featured dashboard of data, without recourse to developers, points to a direct, head-to-head competition between Apple/IBM and Microsoft for the same market, namely enterprise customers looking for “no-code” solutions and lots of BI.
The product on the table on the Microsoft side, in this presumed comparison, is Office 365 and the suite of BI solutions included in the Power BI Excel offer. IBM certainly has the position in the enterprise computing space to represent a serious, credible threat to Microsoft’s dominance. The fact the dashboard is depicted running on an Apple iPad, rather than a Microsoft Surface is, as well, something to think about.
This competition is nothing new. IBM and Microsoft have fiercely competed for BI business before. IBM’s Cognos has traditionally owned a large piece of the market, with Microsoft challenging via a combination of SQL Server, SharePoint, and efforts of some prominent partners — notably Neudesic. What is different about the potential challenge represented by the combination depicted in Lohr’s article, is the dramatically lower cost of acquisition likely for the kind of solution we see running on the lady’s iPad. Redmond will likely get the wake up call.
Ira Michael Blonder
© IMB Enterprises, Inc. & Ira Michael Blonder, 2014 All Rights Reserved