Rometty pointedly avoided mention of products or particular technologies during her remarks, but when asked to say more about technology during a question-and-answer session, she said that we're now entering a third wave of computing. The first wave was about computers used to count. The second wave saw the development of programmable computers that could execute instructions.
"The third era will be about computers that learn," she said. "It has to be because information is too big and growing too fast, so you can't program it. The computer has to learn, by itself."
This new era will be fueled by big data, she said, and she connected the dots to IBM Watson, the Jeopardy-playing, cognitive-computing machine that is now being trained to serve as a medical adviser for oncologists and an expedited decision aid for health insurers. Watson is also being trained for human-assistance roles in financial services and call center operations.
"This is, I believe, one of the greatest contributions that IBM will make in the future," Rometty said of Watson.
IBM's CEO closed her remarks by saying that all organizations will be forced to change in the big data era because they will be increasingly exposed through the cloud, mobile and social trends and related data analysis. But that will bring valuable benefits.
"The greatest contribution of this shift is that it will force every entity -- private, public, government -- to become an authentic organization," she said.
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