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Enterprise hits and misses - CES brings enterprise lessons (and AI gadgetry), and OpenAI pleads its copyright case

Jon Reed Profile picture for user jreed January 15, 2024
This week - CES brings a surprising dose of enterprise lessons - and the expected AI gadgetry (and whiffs). OpenAI makes its copyright case; I opine. The problem of AI overreach is in play as Rite Aid's facial recognition gaffes and overreaching "assistants" offer (too much?) advice.


Lead story - enterprise CES takeaways - where are we headed next?

The massive CES (Computer Electronics Show) is one January ritual I've (thankfully) managed to avoid. Being on the enterprise beat means avoiding gadget culture obsessions - and the whiffs that come with that (for more on the whiffery, scroll down).

But that doesn't mean CES is devoid of enterprise takeaways. Stuart found a few, via CES 2024 - the 'fork in the road' facing business, according to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon. Pick your technology path!

Though the generative AI consumer "experiences" strike me more as "we too" than incredible innovations, the more practical InHome Replenishment service seems to have interesting AI potential. As Stuart explains, it "will use a personalized algorithm to anticipate customer needs and place orders that are then delivered directly to their homes." Stuart concludes:

McMillon’s comments around more enjoyable new jobs with higher pay levels inevitably attracted some opprobrium online, but there’s a lot of exciting potential in customer-facing features, such as InHome Replenishment, if customers get used to working with such tech.

As Stuart points out, with the NRF 'big retail show' set to kick off in New York City shortly, this CES showcase gives Walmart a PR boost before the retail noise hits a crescendo. Same thing for L'Oréal: CES 2024 - gen AI adds to L'Oréal's digital transformation in the beauty tech revolution: L'Oréal's gen AI pitch doesn't come out of nowhere: "L'Oréal' has been one of the prime movers for digital transformation in the highly competitive beauty sector for quite some time."

However, the gen AI "personal beauty assistant" raised my 'AI Overeach' flag:

The Beauty Genius will act like a personal beauty advisor, available 24/7 in your pocket. It can also help answers questions about your beauty routines and even sensitive topics without having to speak to a real person, such as acne, dandruff, or hair loss. It can also help guide people through these challenging issues.

Though this gen AI assistant is clearly trained on plenty of beauty-specific content, I would caution anyone not to take an AI assistant's final word for high stakes issues like acne or hair loss. "Recommend a new organic shampoo?" Yes. I'll even buy into skin tone recommendations. But: "What should I do about my hair loss?" Not so fast. Asking a probabilistic system for definitive advice is a contradiction in terms.

Justifying this tech by saying you can avoid talking to a real person is absurd - that's what search engines, which provide clear source information, are for - though Microsoft (and maybe Google?) seem determined to put referenceable search listings behind them in search of AI profits (Oh, and doctors still come in handy too for diagnosing actual medical conditions). But hey, go ahead, let the public be a beta tester for AI hair loss guidance, and we'll find out if I'm right. Perhaps all this is sorted via L'Oréal's embedded disclaimers and guardrails  - if so, I look forward to reading the fine print.

diginomica picks - my top stories on diginomica this week

  • CIO interview - author of The Wolf in CIO's Clothing - Mark Chillingworth filed a provocative interview with author Tina Nunno: "Nunno says the book and her subsequent work as a specialist in executive leadership and organizational politics with Gartner are responses to the toxic cultures that exist in many firms. CIOs are often asked to cope with budget cuts yet deliver more, and the organization will not tolerate failures."
  • Accenture Technology Vision 2024 - a more human interface requires a solid data foundation - After Accenture's shameless handwaving for the "WebMe" Metaverse in 2022 - and not acknowledging their prognosticating blunders in 2023 when mass gen AI adoption discredited Metaverse "next big thing" venture capitalist fantasies - I tuned out on Accenture's Tech Vision series. But George bravely forged on, though he too offered a gut check: "Enterprises will need to focus on improving their human talent and integrating their data infrastructures together to see the most significant benefits of this coming wave. On the talent side, all four innovations will require substantial investments in the humans tasked with building trust and applying them to specific business cases."

Vendor analysis, diginomica style. Here's my three top choices from our vendor coverage:

A couple more vendor picks, without the quotables:

Jon's grab bag - Gary filed an informative use case which introduced me to a shiny new acronym, DEX (Digital Employee Experience) - How Princess Alexandra NHS Trust aims to save £3 million through a digital Employee Experience agenda. George (properly) grills a hallucination brouhaha that goes back deeper than genAI: Britain's Horizon scandal - what enterprises and policymakers can learn about hallucinating IT.

Finally, Stuart punctured some AI hype balloons of the doomsday variety in A five percent chance of AI killing us all? Welcome to 2024! Welcome indeed.

Best of the enterprise web

Waiter suggesting a bottle of wine to a customer

My top six

Overworked businessman


I promised you a whiff of CES gadget culture:

Over on my X/Twitter feed, the claim of "first AI chair" was disputed. I don't think this CES AI gem will be disputed though:

This is actually a news story, as OpenAI pleads its copyright case to the UK. But I felt it belonged in the whiffs column:

The problem right now is the discovery of verbatim and trademark-protected output coming out of all kinds of LLMs, with the right prompts. As I argued in my most recent AI debate, the verbatim output changes the copyright ramifications significantly. I could be wrong, but my guess is that throwing a fit because you have to pay for the ingredients of a (potentially lucrative) sandwich isn't going to garner much regulatory sympathy:

On a fun note, let's close with this: Researchers Install Ransomware on Internet-Connected Wrench. This industrial wrench may have some legit reasons for being "connected," but, hey - it's still whiff-worthy. See you next time...

If you find an #ensw piece that qualifies for hits and misses - in a good or bad way - let me know in the comments as Clive (almost) always does. Most Enterprise hits and misses articles are selected from my curated @jonerpnewsfeed.

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