IBM and USAA put Watson to work in the military

IBM(s ibm) continues its epic push to entrench Watson in applications — including consumer-facing applications with customer USAA, which provides financial services to U.S. military personnel and their families. The new IBM Watson Engagement  Advisor aims to help service people make the transition from military to civilian live, IBM said.
For this Watson analyzes the more than 3,000(!) USAA documents related to financial and healthcare benefits etc. and can answer questions about that content. More here from Bloomberg News.
Watson is IBM’s big, cool product but since it won its Jeopardy championship three years ago, IBM has had a hard time capitalizing on that PR bonanza. In January, IBM gave Watson its very own business unit to foster a business push — and jumpstart what it hopes will be a $10 billion business. A month later, the exec in charge of Watson’s push, Manoj Saxena, left the company, raising some eyebrows.
In a statement announcing the USAA application, which is in pilot, IBM SVP Mike Rhodin said: “Putting Watson into the hands of consumers is a critical milestone toward improving how we work and live.”
And make no mistake; IBM needs to get Watson out there and in use or risk squandering this lead.
IBM Watson USAA application

Competition is good right? Even in cloud.

Remember. Competition is good — for customers if not competitors. And competition in cloud has hit a fever pitch.
With Google(s goog) and Microsoft(s msft) pitching Amazon(s amzn) Web Services customers and more established businesses contemplating hybrid cloud strategies, Amazon Web Services cannot take its leadership position for granted. And I’m betting no one knows that better than, well, AWS itself.
The company, which launched — what 60? — price cuts in the past few years, now has competitors meeting those cuts, or initiating them on their own. And, as startups grow, they get a better idea of their workloads and cycles, and start looking into hybrid cloud deployment. Or, if they’re fiscally fit, they’ll play the public cloud players off against each other. Or both.
That is a trend that legacy IT players — Microsoft(s msft), IBM(s ibm), HP et al. — have been banking on. Of course, Amazon will respond with more products — VPC, Direct Connect — to accommodate that model. But with larger companies the sales cycle is longer, more resource intensive, and all of that slows things down.
So let’s settle in and see what happens.

Don’t forget the Structure Show

Andrew Clay Shafer, who  co-founded Puppet Labs (see disclosure), worked on OpenStack at Cloudscaling and Rackspace, is now  senior director of technology for Pivotal. so he’s got a lot to say on why operations people still get short shrift; why the piece parts of Pivotal make an interesting whole, and why startups should think twice before throwing in with incubators. His segment starts at about 14 minutes in, so if you don’t want to hear Jonathan Vanian and I chat about EMC’s trials and tribulations or Hilary Mason’s new big data startup, just cut to the chase.
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Disclosure: Puppet Labs is backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of Gigaom.