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Vendors rush to call everything AI even if it isn't, or doesn't help

So says Gartner, which reckons marketers have brainwashed themselves and us with AI hype

Many enterprise software vendors “are focused on the goal of simply building and marketing an AI-based product rather than identifying use cases and the business value to customers.”

So says Gartner analyst Jim Hare in a July 6th piece of research titled “How Enterprise Software Providers Should (and Should Not) Exploit the AI Disruption”.

“Nearly every technology provider is now claiming to be an AI company,” Hare writes, having counted more than 1,000 vendors who claim to either sell AI or bake it into their products. “This ultrahype of the AI label has led to a hysteria of 'rebranding' from companies desperate to keep up. Similar to the go-go days of the late 1990s, when every enterprise was an 'ebusiness' company, many vendors are entering the AI market by simply adding 'AI' to their sales and marketing materials.”

“Similar to greenwashing, in which companies exaggerate the environmental-friendliness of their operational practices for business benefit, many technology vendors are now 'AI washing' by applying the AI label too indiscriminately.”

That's not helpful, Hare argues, because AI-washing often contains nothing more than “empty promises”.

“Some vendors are promoting AI brands as if they are superheroes (such as Einstein, Holmes, Leonardo and Watson) that can save the world,” he says. “While it is creative brand marketing, it misdirects buyers and increases confusion as to what is real and what is just marketing.”

He also says plenty of AI isn't, as follows:

Most vendors are overselling the AI capabilities of their products with shiny, bold marketing when their technology provides strictly rule-based machine learning and analytics (rather than anything remotely self-learning). We are heading toward a point of dilution where AI is likely to become just another marketing term used for any software app displaying even the most rudimentary intelligence.

Ouch. And double ouch for VendorLand because Hare says users are already seeing through the hype and just not buying AI while they wait for the hype to die down. He also warns that those who do buy AI now are at risk of becoming disillusioned by products that over-promise, under-deliver and leave buyers wary of buying any more AI any time soon.

Hare therefore urges marketers to tone it down, drop the term AI from their web pages and hop off the hype-train if they want to be differentiated or have a serious discussion about how their wares use machine learning.

He remains a believer in AI, however, as his document predicts it will be pervasive by 2020 and that it can work well when used to improve the performance of existing systems, rather than as a big-bang upgrade.

But he also warns that even when taking that path of least resistance, organisations will struggle to adopt AI because few have the skilled people to sift through the masses of supposedly artificially-intelligence products on offer, never mind keep them running once installed. ®

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