IBM is one of a small handful of U.S. companies that have survived more than 100 years. In fact, the number of companies that have made it 50 years is still a very short list. Of the companies I’ve worked for, IBM is the only big firm that is still around; the others have failed or been acquired.
I was at IBM's 100-year birthday party last decade and heard Sam Palmisano, then the IBM CEO, share Thomas Watson Jr.’s advice for future IBM. Thomas Watson Jr., the son of IBM’s founder, was the most iconic of IBM’s CEOs, and he said a firm must be willing to change everything but who it is. His meaning was that integrity, customer focus and quality needed to be sacrosanct, but the actual products, physical structure, operational policies and even the makeup of its leadership needed to evolve.
And evolve IBM did.
It is now a power in cloud computing, artificial intelligence and quantum computing rather than the big iron company I worked for 30 years ago.
Next week is IBM Think, the big conference showcase for IBM. I’m looking forward to seeing a very different company — yet one with the same integrity, customer focus and quality that defined the firm I used to work for.
IBM’s Position on Artificial Intelligence
In my opinion, you’d have to be an idiot not to support IBM’s position on artificial intelligence (AI). You see, while some firms are positioning AI as a replacement for workers, IBM is positioning it as a worker enhancement. Under IBM’s plan, you don’t lay off your people and replace them with robots — you partner workers with the technology, making them even more productive.
This is actually the harder path, but it should result in a far more acceptable outcome for those of us who like our paychecks. At Think I’m expecting to see how far this initiative has advanced and to try out some of the human augmentation offerings. I’ve followed IBM Watson since its inception and believe that it may eventually herald in a new age of better healthcare, far more intelligent personal assistants and, as I age, help me assure quality of life while my own memory fades.
There is a stark difference between what firms like Google are doing with yet-untested quantum computing prototypes and what IBM is doing with quantum computing in the cloud. IBM is starting to provide training to enable the next generation of programmers who can make use of this massively powerful new computing platform.
What makes IBM different is it is the only firm aggressively moving to phase two of rolling out this technology and aggressively building a group of developers who can build on IBM’s platforms. Quantum computing represents yet another massively disruptive technology that could solve in seconds what it now takes months to accomplish (including breaking even the most difficult current generation encryption and creating encryption that is virtually unbreakable).
With Intel's massive security problems this year and how angry the company has made folks like Linus Torvalds (who suddenly is not an Intel fan), the opportunity for Open Power has never been greater. IBM’s Power Systems have been quietly taking over critical niches for some time, and given Intel's exposures, this may be the year they break into more mainstream solutions. I’m curious to see if IBM is going to ramp up its expansion efforts.
Also, of interest are some of the amazing things surrounding virtual reality and engineering these Power Systems are helping create. I’m expecting IBM to knock my socks off, so plan to wear sandals to the event.
The entire concept of “Think” appeals to me because much of my time is spent helping correct problems that resulted because people didn’t think. Behind the word is the concept of contemplating a problem first before moving to action. I think a whole lot of folks (particularly in government at the moment) should be doing more of that.
This year I’m expecting amazing things surrounding AI, quantum computing and IBM Power. I doubt I’ll be disappointed.
If you are at Think next week in Las Vegas, let me know your thoughts on what you see. Here is hoping we are both amazed and excited.
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.