Yesterday Stephen Wolfram gave a demo of Wolfram|Alpha at Harvard University. Wolfram|Alpha demo:
Naturally, it generated a lot of buzz, and a lot of misunderstanding. For those who haven’t been reading up on Wolfram’s statements about Wolfram|Alpha, there seems to exist the impression that W|A is meant to replace Google. A much better way of explaining what W|A does is summarized in the article, Wolfram|Alpha: Our First Impressions (on ReadWriteWeb).
Alpha, which will go live within the next few weeks, is quite different from Google and really doesn’t directly compete with it at all. Instead of searching the web for info, Alpha is built around a vast repository of curated data from public and licensed sources. Alpha then organizes and computes this knowledge with the help of sophisticated Natural Language Processing algorithms. Users can ask Alpha any kind of question, which can be constructed just like a Google search (think: “hurricane bob” or “carbon steel strength”).
Like Wolfram has explained in various interviews, it’s like having an expert, ready to answer your questions, as you’d pose in natural language to any kind of human expert.