International Business Machines Corp. (NYSE: IBM) shares haven’t recovered from the beating they took earlier this year. Despite the company’s effort spending tens of millions to promote Watson, its artificial intelligence and cloud flagship, and to announce even Watson’s smallest deals, investors won’t buy the story about IBM’s future.
Part of the problem is that the efforts to push Watson seem desperate. While TV commercials present it as a miracle of modern technology, IBM insists that virtually every deal its does for Watson is important. It is a sign of overreaching. An example from last week:
IBM and Sesame Workshop announced that Georgia’s Gwinnett County Public Schools, one of the nation’s top urban school districts, has completed an initial pilot of the industry’s first cognitive vocabulary learning app, built on the IBM and Sesame intelligent play and learning platform. The new platform, powered by IBM Cloud, enables an ecosystem of software developers, researchers, educational toy companies, and educators to tap IBM Watson cognitive capabilities and Sesame Workshop’s early childhood expertise to build engaging experiences to help advance children’s education and learning. The cognitive vocabulary app is one of the first of many cognitive apps, games, and educational toys that will be built over time on this new platform
And it is only one of many announcements that are so far from newsworthy that it is amazing.
IBM’s shares are down 7.2% this year, to $154.10. Only four other Dow 30 stocks have done worse. The Dow itself is up 7.64% to 21,271.97. Perhaps the worst of it is that two other huge Dow tech components have done so well. Apple Inc. (NASDAQ: AAPL) is higher by 28.63% to $148.98. Microsoft Corp. (NASDAQ: MSFT) is up 13.16% to $70.32. Both are near all-time highs.
The most humiliating event for IBM management is that Warren Buffett sold a portion of his shares, after defending his investment for years. At the time his action was announced, he told CNBC:
I don’t value IBM the same way that I did six years ago when I started buying … I’ve revalued it somewhat downward.
It was a brutal rebuke to IBM and its troubled Chair and CEO Ginni Rometty.
Rometty has ruled over a shrinking IBM. In its most recent quarter, revenue fell 3% to $18.2 billion. Net income dropped 13% to $1.8 billion. IBM’s net income margins have dropped to 10%.
Watson hasn’t saved IBM. On the contrary, its ubiquitous presence has only served as poor cover for the faltering company.