As Augusta National Golf Club prepares to host the competition next week, it faces a quandary: The club hasn’t admitted a woman as a member since its founding eight decades ago, yet it has historically invited the chief executive officer of IBM, one of three Masters sponsors. Since the company named Rometty to the post this year, Augusta will have to break tradition either way.
Bloomberg News, on Augusta’s little dilemma.  

Citigroup’s next teller: IBM’s Watson?

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Photo: Courtesy of IBM

IBM’s Jeopardy! playing computer Watson is getting plenty of job offers following its smack-down of two grand champions on national TV a year ago.

Citigroup threw its support behind the question-answering software on Monday, when the bank announced that it was exploring possible uses for Watson. It didn’t go into specifics, but Citi said Watson could “help advance customer interactions, and improve and simplify the banking experience” for a “first-of-a-kind customer interaction solution.”

"We are working to rethink and redesign the various ways in which our customers and clients interact with money," said Don Callahan, Citi’s chief technology officer, in a statement. “We will collaborate with IBM to explore how we can use the Watson technology to provide our customers with new, secure services designed around their increasingly digital and mobile lives.”

The news follows health insurer Wellpoint’s September 2011 announcement that it would incorporate Watson to help medical professionals diagnose and sort out treatment options for complicated health issues.

IBM had said early on in the Watson project that the research wouldn’t just be used for playing games. The tech giant said it would focus on partnering with companies in the health and finance industries, which IBM believes are best-suited to integrate a natural human language analytic technology.

"IBM continues to advance Watson in information intensive industries, enabling organizations to quickly gain valuable insights from vast amounts of data that can speed decision making and improve how companies serve their customers," said Mike Rhodin, head of IBM’s software solutions division. -David

I, for one, welcome our new computer overlords.

Jeopardy champ Ken Jennings, in a scribbled message below his “Final Jeopardy” answer last night.

The three-day computer vs. humans tournament ended last night, with IBM’s Watson supercomputer netting $77,147. Jennings scored $24,000 and Brad Rutter had $21,600. (IBM is donating Watson’s $1 million prize to charity.) -Julianne

Odds are IBM’s Watson computer will destroy Jeopardy champs

Last week, I headed about an hour upstate to IBM’s research facility in Yorktown Heights, N.Y. I was checking out Watson, IBM’s supercomputer that will do battle on Jeopardy with two of the show’s all-time top human champions.

Thursday’s runthrough was a practice round, in which Watson battled Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter on a $1 million replica Jeopardy set.

The point is for Watson to “understand” language as humans naturally speak it — and that’s no easy feat for a computer. Human language is full of subtleties, irony and words with multiple meanings. IBM has been working on the project for several years.

To do this, IBM researchers loaded with 200 million pages of text. Watson uses that data to analyze contextual clues and figure out how words relate to each other.

Lots more detail in the main story here — but suffice it to say, Watson won! Again, this was just a practice round. The real competition will be a series of matches that will air on television on February 14, 15 and 16. 

Now UK bookmakers Bodog.com are getting in on the action. A press release they sent me yesterday said the company is “sad to report that IBM’s Computer, known as Watson, is the odds-on favourite to beat both Jeopardy champions Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.”

Bodog.com’s bet:

  • IBM’s Watson: 5/6
  • Ken Jennings: 5/2
  • Brad Rutter: 5/2

Ouch! I can’t wait to tell my half-robot children that I was there when the machines started to think.

Check out a CNNMoney video below, produced by Jason Sanchez, for all the deets on Watson — plus an interview with Alex Trebek. (I’m the arm and the disembodied voice. I swear!) -Julianne

 

Storage is so sexy. Who knew?

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Are IBM, HP, Dell and Oracle going to buy out all the remaining publicly traded data storage technology companies before the end of the year? It’s starting to seem that way. Big Blue’s $1.7 billion deal for Netezza comes shortly after HP outbid Dell for the unprofitable 3Par. It also follows the scandalous departure of former HP CEO Mark Hurd and his subsequent landing at Oracle. That development has sparked a flurry of rumors about companies Hurd could go after — with Larry Ellison’s blessing, of course.

The latest speculation is that Teradata could be the next bit of takeover chum. The company is one of the few remaining standalone publicly traded firms in the exciting business of data warehousing. So naturally that means Teradata now has much sought after scarcity value, right?

Anyway, that’s what Wall Street seems to think. Teradata was up 7% Monday, making it one of the top performers in the S&P 500. And the tech rumor mill just keeps on spinning. - Paul

Psst. Did you hear the rumor about Radware?

This whole technology M&A rumor mill thing is starting to get ridiculous. Shares of Tel Aviv tech firm Radware surged nearly 40% on no news yesterday. The reason for the move? An Israeli business publication called The Globes posted a story that indicated Radware could be a takeover target of IBM or HP.

Of course, it does seem that HP is hell-bent on buying more companies to try and distract investors from the fact that it still hasn’t named a CEO to replace Mark Hurd. That strategy isn’t working, by the way.

But the Radware story seems very thinly sourced and lacking in substance. It also seems odd that Big Blue would want to get in a bidding war with HP considering that IBM CEO Sam Palmisano attacked HP in an interview with The Wall Street Journal this week. Palmisano was especially critical of HP’s decision to overpay for 3PAR. If you bought Radware on the M&A chatter, it might be best to say mazel tov and sell the stock before it crashes back to earth. Stock’s down nearly 5% this morning. — Paul

CNET tells us about a “virtual mirror” that takes photos of shoppers’ faces, lets them scan the barcode of a specific item like foundation or lip gloss, and shows how they would look with that makeup applied.

The “mirrors,” which are being tested at a handful of Wal-Marts here in the U.S. and at Boots stores in the U.K., takes into account factors like skin tone and lighting and even offer suggestions.

My good friend and next-desk neighbor Dave Goldman told me he spied this judgmental mirror last year when it was being tested at IBM’s innovation lab. Dave reports: “I looked very cute with blush on.” -Julianne