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Seth Wenig / AP

A debate rages in the tech community over whether IBM's Watson computing system is all hype, or the source of real and potential advances in the science of artificial intelligence. Venture Capitalist Chamath Palihapitiya, for instance, has called Watson a "joke" that is the product of IBM's PR operations rather than serious AI science.

MIT's Tech Review, however, recently argued Watson "will be a leader in applying AI to health care's woes," and that if it hasn't achieved hoped-for breakthroughs yet, it's only because "it needs certain types of data to be 'trained,'" and that this data has been difficult to access—a problem that all AI-intensive firms face, not just IBM.

Wall Street is skeptical: Just 5 analysts of 21 tracked by Money.net have a buy rating on IBM stock, while Jefferies analyst James Kisner cut his price target for the company again Tuesday, from $135 to $125, based on his skepticism of Watson. The stock was trading at $153.81 as of publication.

Kisner writes in a note to clients that "While IBM offers one of the more mature cognitive computing platforms today," it is complicated and expensive for enterprises to implement because Watson "has exacting standards when it comes to data enterprises can feed it." Kisner also notes:

  • IBM has been focused on promoting Watson to the investment community, but refuses to break out financial information like revenue derived from the program.
  • "IBM appears outgunned in the talent war" for AI experts, beaten out by rivals like Amazon.
  • Even in the rosiest estimates for revenue driven by Watson, Kisner estimates that massive investment in the project would barely recoup the cost of that capital.

Wherever you fall in the debate over whether Watson represents the state-of-the-art in artificial intelligence, many of Wall Street's top analysts say the profits and losses that result from the project will be disappointing.

Go deeper

Updated 1 hour ago - Health

First North American Omicron cases identified in Canada

COVID-19 testing personnel at Toronto Pearson International Airport in September. Photo: Steve Russell/Toronto Star via Getty Images

The first two cases of the new Omicron variant have been detected in North America, the Canadian government announced Sunday evening.

Driving the news: The World Health Organization has named Omicron a "variant of concern," but cautioned earlier on Sunday that it is not yet clear whether it's more transmissible than other strains of COVID-19.

5 hours ago - Health

WHO: Not yet known whether Omicron leads to more severe disease

Photo illustration: Pavlo Gonchar/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The World Health Organization on Sunday said that it is not yet clear whether the newly discovered Omicron variant is more transmissible than other strains of the COVID-19 virus.

Why it matters: The agency's statement comes as the variant, discovered in South Africa, has already been detected in European and Asian countries.

10 hours ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.