Did IBM Watson Ask Warren Buffet about Value?

May 19, 2017

I read “$4 Billion Stock Sale Suggests Warren Buffett’s Love Affair with IBM Is Over.” The subtitle caught my eye. What would Watson think about this statement:

Berkshire Hathaway’s founder Warren Buffett has admitted that buying IBM shares was a mistake. He has sold 30 percent of his 81 million shares because the company failed to live up to the expectations it held in 2011.

If I had access to a fully functioning (already trained) IBM Watson, I would ask Watson that question directly.

Last night I was watching the NBA playoff game between the technically adept Houston team and the programming-crazed San Antonio team. There in the middle of a start and stop game was an IBM Watson commercial.

Let me tell you that the IBM Watson message nestled comfortably amidst the tats, the hysterical announcers, and the computer-literature crowd.

IBM has a knack for getting its message out to buyers with cash in their hands for a confection of open source, home brew, and acquired technology.

Why doesn’t Warren Buffet get the message?

According the the write up, Mr. Buffet explains what message he received about IBM:

… IBM “hasn’t done what, five or six years ago, I expected would happen – or what the management expected would happen, if you look back at what they were projecting, and how they thought the business would develop. “The earnings have been obviously disappointing. I mean, five or six years ago, I think they were earning $20+ billion pre-tax and maybe it’s $13 billion now, and I don’t think the quality of the earnings has improved. “It’s been a period when it’s been tougher than they thought and it’s been tougher than I thought. But I was wrong. I don’t blame them. I get paid to make my own decisions, and sometimes they’re right and sometimes they’re wrong.

Interesting but not quite as remarkable as smart software being advertised to NBA fans. Air ball.

Stephen E Arnold, May 19, 2017

Google: Fateful Advertising Decision

May 19, 2017

Has Google AdWords become indispensable for business? It is beginning to look that way, we learn from the StarTribune’s article, “How Google Decided to Take Ads on the Most Prominent Real Estate on the Web.” New York Times writer Daisuke Wakabayashi describes the company’s incorporation of search-based advertising:

In the 17 years since Google introduced text-based advertising above search results, the company has allocated more space to ads and created new forms of them. The ad creep on Google has pushed ‘organic’ (unpaid) search results farther down the screen, an effect even more pronounced on the smaller displays of smartphones. The changes are profound for retailers and brands that rely on leads from Google searches to drive online sales. With limited space available near the top of search results, not advertising on search terms associated with your brand or displaying images of your products is tantamount to telling potential customers to spend their money elsewhere. The biggest development with search ads is the proliferation of product listing ads, or PLAs. In a departure from its text-based ads, Google started allowing retailers to post pictures, descriptions and prices of products at the top of search results in 2009.

Another change is the ability for advertisers to link to more general search terms; for example, users see ads for a specific Nike design when they search for “running shoes.” The company has also put resources into optimizing ad placement on both computers and mobile devices. It has gotten to the point that many companies accept a Google AdWords initiative as a necessary expense. Can anyone topple Google from this unique marketing tower?

Cynthia Murrell, May 19, 2017

About.com Still Running Google Adwords

May 18, 2017

I read “After 18 Years, About.com Is Changing Its Name and Shutting Down Its Website — Its CEO Reveals How It All Went Down.” The main idea is that About.com, a weird list of curated sites by topics, is dead. However, I noted this ad on May 15, 13 days after the struggling About.com took a bullet for the good of current information.

image

The ad appeared in a list of search results for sentiment analysis, not market sentiment analysis, but when someone is spending money to promote a terminated Web information service, that someone either is [a] blessed with oodles of cash, [b] oversees a crew of with it managers, or [c] does not know how to turn off Adwords.

Perhaps this approach to fiscal and marketing methods provides some insight into why the About.com Web site slumped to the moist early summer earth? Definitely a plus for the Google sales professional handling the dead company’s account.

Stephen E Arnold, May 18, 2017

IBM Watson: A Joke?

May 10, 2017

I wanted to ask IBM Watson is it thought the article “IBM’s Watson Is a Joke, Says Social Capital CEO Palihapitiya.” No opportunity. Bummer.

I learned from the real journalism outfit CNBC, which has been known to sell advertising, that:

“Watson is a joke, just to be completely honest,” he said in an interview with “Closing Bell” on the sidelines of the Sohn Investment Conference in New York.

The Social Capital top dog added:

“I think what IBM is excellent at is using their sales and marketing infrastructure to convince people who have asymmetrically less knowledge to pay for something,” Palihapitiya added. “I put them and Oracle in somewhat of the same bucket.”

I like that “asymmetrically less knowledge.” It suggests that the PR firms, the paid consultants who flog the word “cognitive,” and the torrent of odd ball conference talks are smoke and mirrors.

Should one put one’s money into IBM? My reading of the article suggests that the CNBC expert believes that Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk are where the action is. What? No Alphabet Google thing?

Several observations:

  1. Describing something in marketing science fiction is fun and can be lucrative. The reality is that Lucene, home brew code, and acquired technology do not add up to a breakthrough in smart software. Sorry, cheerleaders.
  2. Reporting five years of declining revenue puts hyperbole in context. IBM is simply trying to hard to push Watson into everything from recipes to healthcare. The financial reports tell me that the bet is not working.
  3. Creating wild and crazy Super Bowl ads which suggest a maximum refund tips toward carnival marketing. Floating white cubes are just as incomprehensible to me as PT Barnum’s Feejee mermaid.

Perhaps IBM can roll out a TV spot with Mr. Barnum’s Chang and Eng as a spokes-people.

Stephen E Arnold, May 9, 2017

US Still Most Profitable for Alphabet

May 8, 2017

Alphabet, Inc., the parent company of Google generates maximum revenue from the US market. Europe Middle East and Africa combined come at second and Asia Pacific occupying the third slot.

Recode in its earnings report titled Here’s Where Alphabet Makes Its Money says:

U.S. revenue increased 25 percent from last year to $11.8 billion. Sales from the Asia-Pacific region rose 29 percent to $3.6 billion. Revenue from Europe, the Middle East, and Africa was up 13 percent to $8.1 billion.

Despite the fact that around 61% of world population is in Asia Pacific region, Google garnering most of the revenues from a mere 322 million people is surprising. It can be attributed to the fact that China, which forms the bulk of Asia’s population does not have access to Google or its services. India, another emerging market though is open, is yet to embrace digital economy fully.

While chances of Chinese market opening up for Google are slim, India seems to be high on the radar of not only Google but also for other tech majors like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Facebook.

Vishol Ingole, May 8, 2017

Salesforce Einstein and Enterprise AI

May 5, 2017

One customer-relationship-management (CRM) firm is determined to leverage the power of natural language processing within its clients’ organizations. VentureBeat examines “What Salesforce Einstein Teaches Us About Enterprise AI.” The company positions its AI tool as a layer within its “Clouds” that brings the AI magic to CRM. They vow that the some-odd 150,000 existing Salesforce customers can deploy Einstein quickly and easily.

Salesforce has invested much in the project, having snapped up RelatelQ for $390 million, BeyondCore for $110 million, Predicition IO for $58 million, and MetaMind for an undisclosed sum. Competition is fierce in this area, but the company is very pleased with the results so far. Writer Mariya Yao cites Salesforce chief scientist Richard Socher as she examines:

The Salesforce AI Research team is innovating on a ‘joint many-task’ learning approach that leverages transfer learning, where a neural network applies knowledge of one domain to other domains. In theory, understanding linguistic morphology should also accelerate understanding of semantics and syntax.

In practice, Socher and his deep learning research team have been able to achieve state-of-the-art results on academic benchmark tests for main entity recognition (identifying key objects, locations, and persons) and semantic similarity (identifying words and phrases that are synonyms). Their approach can solve five NLP tasks — chunking, dependency parsing, semantic relatedness, textual entailment, and part of speech tagging — and also builds in a character model to handle incomplete, misspelled, or unknown words.

Socher believes that AI researchers will achieve transfer learning capabilities in more comprehensive ways in 2017 and that speech recognition will be embedded in many more aspects of our lives. ‘Right now, consumers are used to asking Siri about the weather tomorrow, but we want to enable people to ask natural questions about their own unique data.’

That would indeed be helpful. The article goes on to discuss the potentials for NLP in the enterprise and emphasizes the great challenge of implementing solutions into a company’s workflow. See the article for more discussion. Based in San Francisco, Salesforce was launched in 1999 by a former Oracle executive.

Cynthia Murrell, May 5, 2017

Forrester Research Loses Ground with Customer Management Emphasis

May 3, 2017

Yikes, the Wave people may be swamped by red ink. The investor-targeted news site Seeking Alpha asks, “Forrester Research: Is Irony Profitable?”  Posted by hedge fund manager Terrier Investing, the article observes that Forrester has been moving away from studies on business technology and toward customer-management research. The write-up reports:

The definition of irony, for $500 please? Forrester’s customers… don’t like what they’re selling. This is unfortunate, because as I explain in my Gartner write-up, selling technology research is actually a great business model in general – the value proposition to clients is strong […] and the recurring annual contracts with strong cash flow characteristics make it a hard business to kill even if you really try. To wit, while Forrester’s revenue growth and margins haven’t been anywhere near their targets for quite some time, the business hasn’t imploded and still throws off strong cash flow despite sales force issues and the ongoing product transition.

Perhaps that strong cash flow will ease the way as Forrester either pivots back toward business technology or convinces their customers to want what they’re now selling. The venerable research firm was founded back in 1983 and is based in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Cynthia Murrell, May 3, 2017

 

 

Voice Recognition Software Has Huge Market Reach

May 3, 2017

Voice recognition software still feels like a futuristic technology, despite its prevalence in our everyday lives.  WhaTech explains how far voice recognition technology has imbedded itself into our habits in, “Listening To The Voice Recognition Market.”

The biggest example of speech recognition technology is an automated phone system.  Automated phone systems are used all over the board, especially in banks, retail chains, restaurants, and office phone directories.  People usually despise automated phone systems, because they cannot understand responses and tend to put people on hold for extended periods of time.

Despite how much we hate automated phone systems, they are useful and they have gotten better in understanding human speech and the industry applications are endless:

The Global Voice Recognition Systems Sales Market 2017report by Big Market Research is a comprehensive study of the global voice recognition market. It covers both current and future prospect scenarios, revealing the market’s expected growth rate based on historical data. For products, the report reveals the market’s sales volume, revenue, product price, market share and growth rate, each of which is segmented by artificial intelligence systems and non-artificial intelligence systems. For end-user applications, the report reveals the status for major applications, sales volume, market share and growth rate for each application, with common applications including healthcare, military and aerospace, communications, and automotive.”

Key players in the voice recognition software field are Validsoft, Sensory, Biotrust ID, Voicevault, Voicebox Technologies, Lumenvox, M2SYS, Advanced Voice Recognition Systems, and Mmodal.  These companies would benefit from using Bitext’s linguistic-based analytics platform to enhance their technology’s language learning skills.

Whitney Grace, May 3, 2017

 

Thomson Reuters: Now the Answer Company

April 25, 2017

Earlier this year I saw a reference to “the answer company.” I ignored it. Yesterday I saw a link to a podcast with Casey Hall, who is the “head of social media for business communications” at Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters is a publicly traded company with revenues in the $14 billion range. Here’s a Google chart showing how the company has performed over the last few years:

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To my untrained eye, it looks as if revenues are down and profits are up. Yikes. How were those cost savings achieved? Perhaps the podcast explains how “the answer company” will boost revenues and continue to generate sustainable returns for stakeholders and, of course, senior management.

The podcast addresses a number of Thomson Reuters’ themes. One, for instance, is the fact that the company has 45,000 employees and a “giant footprint.” As the podcast ground forward, I realized that “the answer company” wants its employees to embrace employee advocacy.

It seems that “the answer company” is trying to communicate with its employees. According to the write up “How Thomson Reuters Earned the Brand as The Answer Company” accompanying the podcast told me:

Thomson Reuters encourages their employees to engage with their network of data scientists, finance, and accounting professionals by sharing the brand’s message. Leveraging their employees’ networks allows them to increase their reach and enhance the authenticity of the message since it’s coming from a real person, the employee. The employee advocacy program also helps with internal communications. Employees engage with each other and share what’s going on in their part of the organization.

Yeah, but, what about explaining “how” Thomson Reuters became “the answer company”? As it turns out, the podcast focused exclusively on “on boarding employees,” which I don’t really understand. Another topic was measuring the impact of the employee advocacy program. I think this means closing sales.

I suppose that Thomson Reuters just decided it needed a new tag line even thought its online services usually require a person to run a search, read a results list, and hunt for the needed information. That’s not answers. That’s work.

I believe that Thomson Reuters licensed the Palantir Technologies’ system in order to have tools which make sense of information. But if the podcast is any indication of how Thomson Reuters became “the answer company,” my thought is that the company is trying social media as a sales tool.

As for answers, one still has to hunt to find out what companies Thomson Reuters owns. One has to run queries on its online legal information systems and then hunt for answers.

Ah, PR. Love it. An article title which does not related to the content of the podcast OR the article.

Stephen E Arnold, April 24, 2017

The Big Dud

April 24, 2017

Marketers often need a fancy term periodically to sell technologies to large companies. Big Data and Hadoop was one such term. After years of marketing, adopters are yet to see any results, let alone any ROI.

Datamani recently published an article titled Hadoop Has Failed Us, Tech Experts Say in which the author says:

Many companies still run mainframe applications that were originally developed half a century ago. But thanks to better mousetraps like S3 (for storage) and Spark (for processing), Hadoop will be relegated to niche and legacy statuses going forward.

One of the primary concerns with Hadoop is that only handful of people know how to play it. For data scientists to make head and tail out of data, precise data queries and mining needs to be done. The dearth of experts, however, is hampering efforts of companies who want to make Big Data work for them. Other frameworks are trying to overcome problems put forth by Hadoop, but many companies have already adopted it and are stuck with it. And just like many fads, Big Data might fade into oblivion.

Vishal Ingole, April 24, 2017

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