Welcome to the age of supercomputing for everyone.
On Thursday IBM will announce that Watson, the computing system that beat all the humans on "Jeopardy!" two years ago, will be available in a form more than twice as powerful via the Internet.
Companies, academics and individual software developers will be able to use it at a small fraction of the previous cost, drawing on IBM's specialists in fields like computational linguistics to build machines that can interpret complex data and better interact with humans.
IBM's move to make its marquee technology more widely available is the latest effort among big technology companies to make the world's most powerful computers as accessible as the Angry Birds video game.
It is also an indication of how quickly the technology industry is changing, from complex systems that cost millions to install to pay-as-you-go deals that provide small companies and even individuals access to technology that just a few years ago only the largest companies could afford.
"The next generation will look back and see 2013 as a year of monumental change," said Stephen Gold, vice president of the Watson project at IBM.
"This is the start of a shift in the way people interact with computers."
IBM is wielding Watson in a fight to control the world of cloud computing—huge collections of computer servers connected over the Internet—with other big technology companies like Amazon.com, Google and Microsoft. It is no coincidence that IBM discussed its Watson news the same week Amazon was hosting clients at a conference here to pitch its own computing cloud, called Amazon Web Services or A.W.S.
The competition is still young, but its impact will be significant.
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"Companies, governments and people will struggle to figure out what to do with all this," said Jamie Popkin, an analyst with the research company Gartner. "It means there is going to be a new pace and velocity, making people rethink when humans make decisions, while machines make other decisions."
Watson, a project on which IBM spent 14 years, is an artificial learning system that digests large volumes of information to find hidden meanings. Initial uses—besides besting humans on game shows—include examining medical patients and records to find an unexpected diagnosis, a bit like the genius portrayed in the television show "House." Other uses include an online personal shopper and a virtual health aide that tailors exercises by asking questions.
IBM is opening Watson to more people in part to see what additional businesses might be created.
Watson is prominent, but similar projects are being run by other companies. On Tuesday, a company appearing at the Amazon conference said it had run in 18 hours a project on Amazon's cloud of computer servers that would have taken 264 years on a single server.