Last week, IBM opened the beta of its Watson Analytics service, a set of predictive and visual analytics tools for business. While the company is using the Watson brand for this tool, Watson Analytics is not a natural language interface as you’d imagine from Watson’s victory on Jeopardy. However, IBM does say that the tool will grow ‘smarter’ in how it relates to datasets over time, as users work with the tool.
Analytics is a high growth sector for IBM, projected to be over $20 billion next year, and the release of Watson Analytics is part of a strategy to appeal to smaller companies with less cash. Watson Analytics is being positioned as a freemium offering.
Users can load datasets — in spreadsheet formats — into predefined analytics packages. Intelligent algorithms parse the data, looking for commonly used terms in rows and columns, and assisting the user with preprogrammed analysis and visualizations. I’ve had a demo, and the user experience is very intuitive, and the system presents related facts and insights while the user is manipulating the analysis tools.
Here’s a screenshot with a so-called ‘bullseye chart’ representing the likelihood of a purchase made based on various customer data.
Users will reach a cap on the amount of data uploaded, and if they opt to continue they’ll have to upgrade to a premium version for more storage and more powerful apps.
This is an example of a computing dinosaur evolving, and adopting the business practices of the consumer market to remain relevant and to match the customer preferences of the 21st century.