IBM created the division to commercialize Watson early last year, and said it would invest US$1 billion in the effort. Its traditional computer, software and service businesses have all been declining, and IBM needs new areas for growth.
IBM doesn't only provide the computing power. If it thinks an application will take off, it will help companies to test it at scale, by pairing the app developer with another of its clients that might want to use the app internally. "We're like an incubator," said IBM's Lauri Saft, the vice president in charge of Watson ecosystem development.
To attract more users to Watson, IBM is also opening a new lab in Silicon Valley where developers, start-ups and venture capitalists can try out the technology and meet with IBM engineers.
There are two main instances of Watson today, Saft said, one in Austin, Texas, and the other in Raleigh, North Carolina. Work is "underway right now" to build additional systems overseas, she said.
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