Previewing Watson Workspace was a major disappointment

by Volker Weber


When IBM announced Watson Workspace last week, it took me a while to understand that this was Project Toscana, first previewed in January at IBM Connect. At the time I warned everyone that this was a canned demo, where presenters where just faking using the product. I had learned this a year earlier when IBM presented a new Connections version that did not exist yet. So here we were, looking at a new messaging product that IBM supposedly had been working on for quite some time.

Project Toscana was supposed to ship by the end of the year. Fast forward to last week, when Inhi Cho Suh announced the product as Watson Workspace, a new platform powered by "Cognitive" and invited everybody who was at the conference to take a look at the preview. That invitation was transitive because whoever is in there can invite more people.

Got my invitation, logged in, and boy oh boy was I disappointed. What had they been working on all year? A very basic text chat with a few Markdown markups for bold and italic, no unfurling of anything you put in there, no mentions, no @-replies, no search. Yes, no search! Further digging around found that an annotator (Watson technology) was adding information to all posts and that there was a Moments feature designed to bubble up interesting stuff that happened while you were not looking. For now it's only but a promise because Watson showed no sign of intelligence, and it would only understand English. Further digging around revealed an API for extending the platform and some very rudimentary integration with IFTTT and Slack.

I see good genes, but this platform has yet to graduate from Kindergarden. IBM went public too early. Way too early. I would be surprised if IBM was able to ship in 2016.

And that screenshot above? This is Edge, the standard browser for 400 Million Windows devices. It's very well behaved. If IBM cannot develop against all browsers in 2016, what can they do?


Thanks for sharing (and for the invite), Volker. Sadly I couldn't agree more. I wanted so much to be impressed by Workspace, but right now the product is so empty and so much is "coming soon" that it's impossible to tell whether there is any real potential, just that the reality of the preview is sorely lacking. I hope they can catch up quickly.

(We discussed Watson Workspace on the first episode of the WTF Tech podcast if anyone is interested in hearing more on what is missing...)

Stuart McIntyre, 2016-11-02 12:40

Also ich bin nicht überrascht, wenn das wieder nicht ordentlich umgesetzt wird. Die IBM ist einfach nicht mehr in der Lage im ICS Bereich ein Projekt ordentlich durchzuführen und ich denke, dass das ein Problem mit der Entiwcklungsweise ist. Soweit ich das auf einer der Edcom Nachlesen der letzten Jahre mitbekommen habe, haben Sie die Entwicklung von Software sehr stark auf einen designorientierten Ansatz umgestellt. So weit ich es verstanden habe, wird zuerst ein Design mit Mockups erstellt und an diesem ewig herumgefeilt. Dieses wird dann groß präsentiert und wenn alle begeistert sind, wird mal überlegt wie man sowas denn programmieren könnte. Und dann kommt man nach und nach drauf, dass die verschiedenen Designansätze sich oft gar nicht so gut umsetzen lassen und dass ausserdem die Kunden ungeduldig werden, da sie ja schön die hübschen Mockups gesehen haben und dachten die Software ist demnächst fertig, obwohl ausser hübschen Präsentationen keine Funktionalität da ist. Das ganze ist ja auch bei Verse schon ziemlich schiefgeganen und hat zu großen Verzögerungen geführt. Wenn dann der Hype abflaut hat IBM wieder das Interesse verloren und läuft dem nächsten Hype nach. Der Kunde muss dann schauen, wie er mit der halbgaren Lösung zu Rande kommt.

Ralf M Petter, 2016-11-02 15:47

Nein, Design Thinking ist richtig. Das ist genau das Gegentil von dem, was Du vermutest. Was Du beklagst, ist was anderes. Schick & Co haben alles versprochen und nichts gehalten.

Aber es gibt ein anderes Problem. Die oberste Heeresleitung hat Sieg an zwei Fronten befohlen: Cloud und Cognitive. Und dafür muss alles passend gemacht wird, auch das, was nicht passt. Ohne diese beiden Ziele kriegst Du für gar nichts ein Budget.

Volker Weber, 2016-11-02 16:15

Nun wenn Design Thinking eine effektive Methode zur Entwicklung von Softwareprodukten ist und die IBM das umgesetzt hat, warum konnten dann Schick&Co. nicht liefern?

Ralf M Petter, 2016-11-02 16:55

Ich kann keine Warum-Fragen beantworten. Ich kann Dir nur sagen, dass Design Thinking nicht das ist, was Du beschrieben hast.

Volker Weber, 2016-11-02 16:56

The demo that Rob Ingram did in the session just before Inhi's at World of Watson was great. Great features, great UI, some good showcases of cognitive, and integration with Office365. What we saw in the demo is not in the preview today. Everything you mentioned above was in that demo. I am very curious on why the two; the demo and the live preview; are so different. As for why they didn't wait, the launch of the Watson Work brand at World of Watson is the obvious answer. You can't launch a brand at a showcase event and not have a product to talk about :-)

John Head, 2016-11-02 17:16

Understood. But why launch this preview?

Volker Weber, 2016-11-02 17:18

It's the question of the moment, no? And a great one. I have no idea. It must be that they wanted to leverage the WoW momentum.

John Head, 2016-11-02 17:19

I do not see "WoW" being successfully coopted by IBM.

Craig Wiseman, 2016-11-02 19:19

Is there an Underwhelmed momentum?

Lars Berntrop-Bos, 2016-11-02 21:51

"There is no second chance for a first impression."

When will IBM ever learn this?

Felix Binsack, 2016-11-02 21:56

Call me on old sap, but I think they could've created a better product with Sametime and some plugin stuff interacting with Watson.
And they coud've shipped it even...

Lars Berntrop-Bos, 2016-11-03 08:03

Lars, anything Sametime isn't fitting within the IBM Strategic plan, which includes a partnership with Cisco. At WoW last week, Chris Crummey showcased the Cisco integration coming with IBM SmartCloud - Connections & Verse. It replaces every reference and use case of Sametime (IM & Web Meetings) with Webex and Spark. And that is the way forward for IBM. I don't know if they will do that with the on-prem product, but the cloud solution is leaving Sametime behind and quickly.

John Head, 2016-11-03 14:27

Them wanting new stuff does not change my opinion. They had stuff in place. Choosing to ignore without explanation does not make me understand or appreciate.

Then again I may be too attached to old stuff.

Lars Berntrop-Bos, 2016-11-04 09:06

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