In his first keynote since taking the reins last month, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna doubled down on the firm’s commitment to artificial intelligence (AI) as a foundational technology for the future.

At the company’s virtual Think Digital event, Krishna declared that “the importance of both hybrid cloud and AI has accelerated as a result of the pandemic. AI is the only way to scale innovation, insight and expertise.”

“More than 20 years ago, experts predicted every company would become an internet company. I am predicting today that every company will become an AI company – not because they can, but because they must,” he said.

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Krishna has spent the best part of the last three decades at IBM, most recently heading up the firm’s cloud business as SVP, Cloud and Cognitive Software.

He took over last month from previous chief Ginni Rometty, who leaves behind a mixed legacy, having presided over 22 consecutive quarters of declining revenue. Krishna will hope his company’s centrality to helping businesses navigate the coronavirus crisis will help him avoid a similar fate.

In his keynote, he reiterated views first expressed in an open letter to staff back in April, that hybrid cloud and AI are the two most dominant market forces today – both of which he intends to pursue with vigor.

“The pandemic is a powerful force for disruption and an unprecedented tragedy, but it also represents an opportunity,” he said.

“We will look back on this moment as the point at which digital transformation truly accelerated. Transformation journeys that would have lasted years are now being forced through in a matter of months.”

Krishna also unveiled the firm’s new AI toolset, Watson AIOps, which is designed to bring AI to hybrid cloud environments and help businesses automate the management of IT infrastructure.

“The problem is that many businesses are consumed with fixing problems after they occur, instead of preventing them before they happen. Watson AIOps relies on AI to solve and automate how enterprises self-detect, diagnose and respond to anomalies in real time,” he explained.

The new chief believes his company has made “big, bold bets” to allow its clients to capitalise on the opportunities presented by artificial intelligence, but his vision does not stop there.

“AI and cloud are among the most powerful core technologies – but to these we can add blockchain and quantum, which will have a pivotal role to play in digital platforms of the future,” he concluded.

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