ibmwatsonevent3IBM is getting down to business with Watson. Today it officially launched its NYC-based IBM Watson Group at an event in downtown Manhattan. The new business unit – a $1 billion investment for Big Blue – will be headed up by Mike Rhodin, senior VP for Watson and formerly its Software Solutions Group lead,

“We don’t form a business unit very often. When we do it’s to make our company, our clients, our partners accelerate progress. It’s not just about business—it’s about advances that make a big difference to all of society, said IBM CEO Ginni Rometty at the event, which took place at 4 World Trade Center and also was streamed live online. Declaring us to be in the “cognitive” era of computing, in which computers will learn, get smarter over time and unleash insights from Big Data, to help us make better judgments, Rometty discussed IBM’s plan of having entrepreneurs and developers leverage its Watson Developer Cloud to create their own solutions, and the interest by some 750 companies in working with them towards those ends.

Some 2000 people will be part of the new IBM group, which will be situated in the East Village’s Silicon Alley. To drive the ecosystem it wants to see around Watson Cloud-delivered cognitive apps and services, it’s making $100 million of that billion dollars available for venture investments in startups and businesses. The fundamental idea, Rhodin noted, is pulling together the cloud, content, and investment to get things up and running. “The first thing you need in an ecosystem is the developer cloud, the second thing is…content, the fuel of a cognitive system,” he said, and you need to “make a pool of talent available to the ecosystem to accelerate its speed and build-out.”

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