We at bizologie are big fans of Wolfram Alpa, as you can see here, here, here, and here. We heard through the grapevine known as the Wired Epicenter Blog that this new engine just turned two, so we decided to give it some attention in honor of its birthday, and discuss it in greater detail. For the uninitiated, what exactly is Wolfram Alpha? The FAQ page says, “It's a computational knowledge engine: it generates output by doing computations from its own internal knowledge base, instead of searching the web and returning links.” In Wired's entry, author Ryan Singel goes on to say, that the man behind the engine, Stephen Wolfram is encouraged by the fact that “…people are trying to use Wolfram Alpha for complicated things like comparing the economies of two countries.”
Type in a topic on which you want to know more, and Wolfram Alpha returns to you a shiny and concise report on said topic with key facts, statistics, charts, illustrations, annotations for how it derived the data, etc. Even better, you can save each segment of the report as its own image, or you can download the entire thing as a PDF file. (Oh, and the Random button on the homepage is both fascinating and addictive).
For business researchers wanting to learn what features it offers and how to learn the ropes of entering queries, visit the Examples by Topic page, wherein the Money & Finance, and Socioeconomic Data categories will make one hot and bothered.
To give a balanced perspective though, Wolfram Alpha does have its limitations. The takeaway for business researchers: don’t expect it to generate the several hundred/thousand dollar reports sold by the friendly neighborhood analyst company. For example, if you search: Smartphone Market, your current results page will have the utterance: “Commercial Products- Development of this topic is under investigation...”. It then comes as little surprise too that, while the engine touts itself as being great at comparisons, it has a hard time comparing public and private companies. Search: Hilton, Marriott, and you receive only the financial facts of Marriott (which is public). Search: Hilton vs Marriott, and you will get in return the digital equivalent of a blank stare.
Overall though, Wolfram Alpha is an ambitious entity that delivers very well on topics within its current scope of expertise, and bizologie will be eagerly enjoying its evolution. We wish Wolfram Alpha, "...and many more"!