Wolfram Alpha is no longer the new kid on the block when it comes to search tools, but it certainly seems to be making all of the right moves. With a growing staff of more than 200 and a new set of search tools out this week, Wolfram owes thanks (in part) to Apple’s Siri.
As reported by The New York Times, a quarter of all Wolfram Alpha traffic comes from Siri users. I think it is safe to say that Wolfram management made a good decision when partnering with Apple on this one!
The next iteration of Wolfram Alpha explores what might be considered the holy grail of searching. Instead of accepting just text, Wolfram is moving into searching by data and images. This isn’t the same thing as Google image search or Bing; this is something new. According to the NYT:
“The new version handles data and images. In a recent demonstration, Dr. Wolfram, using his computer mouse, dragged in a table of the gross domestic product figures for France for 1961 to 2010, and Wolfram Alpha produced on the Web page a color-coded bar chart, which could be downloaded in different document formats. He put in a table of campaign contributions to politicians over several years, and Wolfram Alpha generated a chart and brief summary, saying that House members received less on average than senators.
Dr. Wolfram dragged in a 3-D image and after a few seconds it rendered the image — a guitar — and reported the number of polygons (2,253), among other characteristics.”
You can no longer mistakenly call Wolfram Alpha a search engine because now it is even more of a knowledge engine than ever before. It can interpret tables and render 3-D graphics?! It’s undoubtedly imperfect but the concept is certainly impressive.
This new offering is called Wolfram Alpha Pro and it is going to be available on a monthly subscription model. The problem I have with this new announcement is the cost ($4.99 per month) because it will likely prevent widespread adoption. However, I personally don’t care how much it costs because the primary user-base is going to be scholars, businesses, students and geeks. I guess that means I’ll be signing up!