IBM invests big in predictive analytics

IBM has made no secret of its ambition to become the world's data-crunching accountant. Now it's beefing up its credentials as a fortune teller. The computing giant acquired SPSS, a Chicago-based predictive analytics firm for $1.2 billion in cash.

Big Blue says SPSS will be the 28th company it has added to its burgeoning analytics division. In 2007, the company acquired business intelligence firm Cognos for $5 billion, the largest acquisition in IBM's history.

The analytics branch, launched in April, will use more than 4,000 consultants and a growing arsenal of software to help companies better understand their swelling piles of data, focusing on complex problems like supply chain management, fraud detection and financial risk assessment. Predictive analytics, like those offered by SPSS, find leading indicators that can allow data mining to forecast future trends and help companies prepare for them.

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