Saxena Leaves IBM, Watson Not Talking
March 17, 2014 Dan Burger
I wonder if Watson saw this coming?
We all know Watson, the cognitive computing in a can with a resume that includes TV star and all-time Jeopardy! king of the hill; medical advisor at the Cleveland Clinic, MD, Anderson Cancer Center, WellPoint, and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center; and high profile shopping assistant with clients such as The North Face, MD Buyline, Welltok, Travelocity, and Kayak.
IBM has placed a $1 billion bet on the hotshot Watson, believing the cognitive capabilities will fit comfortably inside a set of products that within “the next 20 years will change computing as we know it today.” Those words were spoken by Manoj Saxena, who last November had been named general manager of Watson Solutions. Saxena was one of the keynote speakers at IBM’s Enterprise2013 conference. “Once Watson is commercialized,” Saxena said, “we will draw a line in the sand and say: Before this time, computing was nothing more than a giant calculator that could only understand zeroes and ones and structured data. After Watson, there will be cognitive computers that can understand language, syntax, and semantics. Cognitive computers will reason, think, understand and learn from information.”
Last month, Saxena resigned from IBM to become a managing director of a venture capital firm called The Entrepreneur’s Fund. His special assignment will be investing in startups that leverage cognitive computing.
Michael Rhodin, an IBM senior vice president now leads the Watson Group. Rhodin previously was in charge of the Software Solutions Group and was general manager of software before that.
In a post on IBM’s Smarter Planet blog, Saxena, who was general manager of Watson Solutions for nearly three years, commented on his career move.
“I see this as a chance to participate fully in the next phase of cognitive computing innovations. â€œI will be dedicating my time to seeding startups that will apply cognitive computing innovations, along with cloud and B2B technologies. This new role is a natural extension of the work I have been doing to create and expand a Watson ecosystem–championing entrepreneurs who are building a new class of cognitive apps powered by IBM’s Watson cloud platform.”
Despite climbing the ladder of fame, Watson has doubters who call him too complex for his own good. That, of course, is yet to be seen. Commercializing Watson has come a long way, but remains a long way from fruition. Nearly three years ago, Saxena predicted it could take 10 years before Watson to be commercially accepted.
The question still remains: What did Watson know and when did he know it?