Home Tech WolframAlpha: Calculates success at $1.99, not $50

WolframAlpha: Calculates success at $1.99, not $50


Stephen Wolfram’s Google-for-the-genius, WolframAlfa, was surely one of the most overpriced iPhone apps at $50 when it was launched last year. I really wanted to buy the app, not because it might just turn a sow’s ear into a genuinely learned silk purse, but because I thought I needed it. But $50? You gotta be kidding, Stephen.

Now, I’m delighted to hear from TechCrunch that the WolframAlpha team has done a bit of its own maths and decided that it will make more money if the app costs only $1.99. Bravo! I’ve downloaded my copy and have high hopes for getting in some really intelligent searches and stupendous comparisons, not to mention astounding calculations.

Last year I listened to several erudite podcasts on the subject of WA by some supremely erudite commentators, including the very erudite Leo Laporte, but I’m still not really clever enough to fully understand what it is I’m going to get with the Wolfram app. Were they?

According to the web site, WolframAlpha is a “computational knowledge engine”. It certainly must know that the price is right at $1.99, but I’m mystified as to why it thought up $50 in the first place. So the blurb: “Today’s WolframAlpha is the first step in an ambitious, long-term project to make all systematic knowledge immediately computable by anyone. Enter your question or calculation and WolframAlpha uses its built-in algorithms and a growing collection of data to compute the answer.”

Apparently, the system now contains 10+ trillion pieces of data, 50,000+ types of algorithms and models, and linguistic capabilities for 1000+ domains. Hmm, I’ll have a slice of that for $1.99. Expect supreme erudition in future posts.

PS: Just tried it out with the question: "Why is WolframAlpha now so cheap? Answer: "WolframAlpha isn't sure how to compute an answer from your input."


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