IBM has signed a deal to build an unlimited “digital empire” that will have the largest software company in the world, IBM Watson, to manage the entire Internet.
The deal will bring the company’s total US workforce to over 2.3 million, with IBM’s chief executive, Ginni Rometty, describing the digital empire as “one of the most valuable in the history of the world”.
The deal, worth more than $10 billion, will include a virtual-reality (VR) lab in New York and a virtual reality-enabled IBM Research Centre in the company city of Boston.
It comes after the company made an initial investment of $1 billion in VR and augmented-reality company Oculus VR in March, which will see the company expand its research and development workforce to more than 2,000.
The announcement follows a recent deal with Facebook to build a “Facebook-style” data center in Austin, Texas.
The move follows a $1.6 billion deal with Amazon last year.
It follows a number of moves to create more AI-powered apps and services, including a $3.8 billion investment in artificial intelligence startup DeepMind in February.
The Watson-owned Watson team will work on projects such as healthcare, education and healthcare IT, said Rometttys announcement.
“As part of this new digital empire, we will invest in the best researchers and best products in AI, which is the core of our company,” said Watson chief executive Ginnis Romettty.
“We will have access to the most powerful AI-driven tools in the business, including DeepMind’s new DeepMind AI and our Watson Analytics platform.”
The deal is part of a broader move to boost the value of Watson’s business, which has grown exponentially in recent years, with the company making its most recent $2.6bn investment in Watson in February and a $6.7bn acquisition in August of artificial intelligence software maker AIX last year, which saw Watson launch a new research centre.
IBM Watson Chief Executive Ginnies Romettiys announcement came days after it announced a deal with Microsoft to invest $4.4 billion in its cloud computing division in a deal that was widely hailed as a win for cloud computing.
Microsoft is also investing in a new cloud-based AI platform called Machine Learning, which can be used to create intelligent AI applications for the cloud.
Watson will continue to build its own AI, Rometts announcement said.
“In addition to our existing digital empire in the United States, we are now building a digital empire that spans the globe,” said Rommets announcement.
The company said that it will invest “thousands of jobs” in the AI business, and that it expects to create 3,000 to 5,000 new jobs over the next five years.
The new “digital Empire” will include Watson’s AI research team, as well as Watson’s “data science” and “data analytics” teams, Rommetts announcement said, adding that IBM’s Watson team “will work closely with the AI team to develop the most advanced AI tools and to create the most relevant data.”
The announcement comes amid a slew of moves by IBM, which in February announced it had agreed to buy IBM Research for $1bn, a move that will see it take on IBM as a “core member” of the “Big Five” companies, including IBM Watson.
The IBM acquisition was hailed as “transformative” and highlighted the company as “a leader in artificial intelligent computing”, which is where Watson is now a key part.
IBM will remain in the UK.