The contest was pitched as more difficult than a plain "look up the answer" trivia game, since Jeopardy categories are sometimes puns or intentionally misspelled phrases that help indicate the answers. Since categories and clues are not simple phrases, Watson had to process more information than a simple encyclopedia lookup. Watson won handily.
Of course, there's more than just providing the correct question to the clue in Jeopardy. You have to beat your opponents to the buzzer for the chance to respond, and show staff had the IBM team make a mechanical finger that the computer had to use to press its buzzer, instead of just signal with a light or sound. Even though Watson had to perform the same physical action as its human opponents, a mechanical finger can activate its buzzer with a precision human muscles can't match. So I have to wonder if Watson proved much more about computer abilities than we already knew: They can store more information than human brains and they can move and respond more quickly than human bodies.
On the other hand, Watson also muffed it when given this clue in the category "U.S. Cities" : "Its largest airport is named for a World War II hero, and its 2nd largest is named for a World War II battle." The correct response is "What is Chicago?" Its largest airport is named after Lt. Cmdr. Edward H. “Butch” O’Hare, a Medal of Honor recipient from Chicago who died in World War II, and its second-largest is named after the Battle of Midway.
But Watson guessed "What is Toronto?" A former technology writer for Business Week, who blogs for The Huffington Post, defends the answer as not as dumb as it first sounds, when you understand the programming parameters under which Watson operated. OK, he knows a lot more about programming than I do so I'll take him at his word. But let's explore some trivia, shall we?
Toronto's largest airport is Lester B. Pearson International Airport, named after former Canadian Prime Minister and Nobel Prize winner Lester B. Pearson. During World War I, Pearson began serving in the Canadian Army Medical Corps. He transferred to the Royal Flying Corps but was injured twice. He crashed during his first flight but recovered, only to be hit by a bus a year later and discharged. During World War II, Pearson served as the Canadian ambassador to the U.S., which meant he played an important role in the Allied coalition that united to defeat the Axis but probably fell short of the status of "hero."
Its second-busiest airport seems to be Billy Bishop Toronto City Airport, named after William Avery "Billy" Bishop, a World War I pilot credited with 72 kills who is Canada's top military aviation ace. Bishop was named Canada's honorary Air Marshal during World War II and given the responsibility to recruit pilots for the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was so successful that the RCAF had to turn applicants away. Again, invaluable service that helped insure an Allied victory, but Marshal Bishop was certainly not a World War II battle.
So to sum up, although Watson did actually win the two-day battle against the Jeopardy stalwarts, it thought Toronto is a U.S. city, that a World War I pilot was a World War II hero and another World War I pilot was a World War II battle. Judging by all of the scare stories about how little high school students know about geography and history, I think Watson's on track to get his diploma this May and start partying on campus in August.