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IBM CEO: Watson will reach a billion consumers next year

Ginni Rometty of IBM
Kevin Lamarque | Reuters
Ginni Rometty of IBM

IBM Chief Executive Ginni Rometty told CNBC on Wednesday that the company's artificial intelligence platform, Watson, will reach more than 1 billion consumers by the end of 2017.

"This is a celebration of Watson really scaling," she said. "Through others, Watson is touching hundreds of millions of consumers, and by the end of next year it'll be a billion."

Rometty was on site at IBM's World of Watson 2016 event in Las Vegas where the legacy technology company demonstrated how Watson can influence businesses in several different industries.

General Motors CEO Mary Barra was at the event for the announcement of Watson joining On-Star in millions of cars in 2017.

Rometty also mentioned IBM's new partnership with Quest Diagnostics to help physicians bring precision cancer treatments to patients nationwide through a Watson-powered genomic sequencing service.

Watson was launched into the national spotlight when it first appeared on "Jeopardy" five years ago, and since then, Rometty says Watson has become the "silver thread" tied into much of IBM's success. The company's "strategic imperatives," which involve Watson, drove $32 billion in revenue, or 40 percent of the business.

When asked if IBM would ever consider breaking out specific Watson-related figures, Rometty said Watson is in several things, including a current beta-stage testing for cybersecurity. She emphasized the artificial intelligence platform will be useful for doctors, lawyers, teachers and even bankers across the board.

The chief executive said the company recently launched Watson Financial Services, which came out of IBM's acquisition of Promontory Financial Group.

She said she tells clients: "You bring your data, we bring data to help you, and Watson, but the insights belong to you, client." That, she pointed out, is a different strategy than many of IBM's competitors.