Google sees machine learning and AI as integral to its future, for voice, image recognition and natural language processing. (See Google Minds Machine Learning.)
Microsoft has a 5,000-person group focused on on AI, and partnered with OpenAI, a nonprofit AI research group whose founders include Tesla Motors' Elon Musk. It's making tools available for developers to build, connect, deploy and manage intelligent bots. (See Hypercloud Guys Make Big AI Push.)
And IBM of course has Watson, part of the "strategic imperatives" it's counting on to lift the company up while its legacy business declines. Other strategic imperatives are cloud, analytics, mobile and security. (See Cloud Rises But Overall Revenue Down for IBM.)
As with hybrid cloud, Amazon isn't sitting still; its Alexa AI-powered digital assistant is making itself at home in kitchens everywhere. (See Amazon Unlimited, Alexa, AI & How to Cut Off Google at Its Knees .)
Additionally, Amazon offers a line of AI services to developers for natural language understanding, automatic speech recognition, visual search and image recognition, text to speech and machine learning.
Blockchain: A crazy super-weapon Blockchain is the technology underlying bitcoin, but it can be used for a plethora of applications. Blockchain is a distributed ledger, it keeps a permanent record of all transactions entered into it, not under the control of a single central authority such as a bank or government. And it's immutable; transactions can't be altered or erased.
Remember the "permanent record" that your schoolteachers warned you about? That's blockchain.
The decentralized, immutable nature of blockchain is what makes it great for bitcoin; it provides a fully distributed means of keeping track of who owns which bitcoin, and who gave which bitcoin to who and when. But blockchain can be used for any kind of transaction -- and that's what has advocates excited.
Like AI, blockchain requires a complex infrastructure, and cloud providers are naturals to take that on. Microsoft offers Blockchain as a Service on Azure. IBM offers blockchain on its cloud. Google is working with the Royal Bank of Scotland Group on blockchain and backing blockchain startup Ripple. And AWS launched a blockchain playground for developers in the spring.
So far, the most practical emerging applications for blockchain are international financial transactions. Some of that is big business -- international banking and cargo shipping.
And some of it is small scale, like migrant workers sending money home from their jobs in developed nations to their families in the developing world. Small transactions like that can add up to big money when you have millions of them.
Big or small, these kinds of transactions are slow, requiring multiple intermediaries who each require a financial cut, and are ripe for disintermediation to improve speed, agility and reduce costs.
Beyond financial transactions... well, the revolutionary properties of blockchain seem like a lot of handwaving. Something about Internet of Things and something else about revolutionizing corporate governance. Blockchain attracts the kind of people with poor personal hygiene and unkempt beards who dream about the day central banks and governments fall and they can take their rightful place at the top of society.
So I'm a blockchain skeptic.
On the other hand, I'm the guy who thought cameraphones didn't have a future. My fortunetelling record isn't great. I'll be watching blockchain closely, hoping to be proven wrong.
— Mitch Wagner, , Editor, Light Reading Enterprise Cloud