# Future Directions of Wolfram Technologies

“Bursting with technology” is how Stephen Wolfram described Wolfram Research during his opening keynote at the Wolfram Technology Conference in October.

The recent release of *Mathematica* 8 marks the beginning of a whole new way to compute and program thanks to its free-form linguistic input. Additionally, the ever-growing Wolfram|Alpha computational knowledge engine has doubled in content since its launch in May 2009 and continues to become more ubiquitous in the world.

Stephen says you will soon “see a lot of different directions emerge” based on the technology and technology platforms that *Mathematica* and Wolfram|Alpha provide.

In this video, Stephen shares some insight into those future directions.

For more video highlights from Stephen’s keynote, please check out Parts 1, 2, and 3.

I liked it.

After Wolfram Alpha I’ve become a bit of a fanboy of your company :)

Seriously speaking I still don’t use Wolfram Alpha very often, but I have a feeling you guys are into something big for the very next future.

“Free-form linguistic input” is very interesting and seems to be a great way to learn about Mathematica. However, if I’m using it correctly, the notebook MUST have an internet connection to work because the input isn’t interpreted locally, but by the Alpha server or something like that. So, it’s a bit of a hassle to make use of free form input, and even with a broadband connection, a single evaluation/result cycle takes a few seconds. Possibly in the future this will be a great addition to Mathematica. It seems very promising. But right now it’s more of a curiosity.

@roby

“Seriously speaking I still don’t use Wolfram Alpha very often”

That’s the problem. The volumes are much the same as popular blogs:

http://www.alexa.com/siteinfo/wolframalpha.com

i suggest to make mathematica home ed. a freeware, more people will use the software and more will buy your specialized advanced products, go like google wich makes money from that innocent google first page. you may add a very light advertisement to the free version of mathematica in a simple and not annoying page.

the very great software must be free like the life itself.

i wish for wolfram co. a great future.

Re peter’s comment: I gravely doubt that giving away the home edition — which is the full product! — could be part of a profitable business model. The “specialized advanced products” are indeed quite specialized, are already quite expensive, and have a limited clientele.

Boring…

He talks about creating some database of mathematical theorems that can be mined ala Wolfram.Alfa. Does anybody actually use any of the the mathematics that makes its way into modern journals? I doubt it. It didn’t even seem to be the case 30 some years ago when I was a graduate student in math. When you consider how many other immensely more useful upgrades that could be fielded (how about a full GIS capability, for instance), it is disheartening to see what Dr. Wolfram is keen on. I know he’s real smart, but …

@ray

To be fair, Wolfram is a privately held company, and Dr Wolfram really has the right to do with it what he likes — he owes no-one else anything.

To also be fair, he has a pretty good record so far of laying very deep foundations, which seem pointless to the superficial user, until five years later when one sees what can (remarkably easily) be built upon those foundations.

Truth is, when one asks for particular capabilities (like GIS), there is often no reason why a third party could not do that right now. The infrastructure (including the ability to define appropriate notation, and make the package feel like an integrated part of the system) is usually all in place. So if this is not done, that may mean business opportunity, or it may mean that, unfortunately, the demand is not as wide as you think.

And of course we are all frustrated by the business model — we all wish Mathematica were cheaper, and perhaps had a less restrictive license — but it’s a real problem for them. They have to employ top notch brain power — this is not vanilla coding, it’s not even as commonplace (and with as large a pool of talent) as the sort of systems/OS work done by Apple/Google/MS. They’re probably competing, to some extent, with hedge fund/quant salaries. Meanwhile this is not a product that is a must-have, for either most businesses or most individuals; and working too hard to stratify your customers (ie charging a LOT more for more features, and having many tiers of product) really really pisses users off.

One thing they could try would be something like a school edition on a subscription model — pay $10 a month or something, and little Billy gets to use a somewhat limited version of Mathematica (but you don’t want it to be too limited, you want Billy, if he has any mathematical talent, to learn to love the program, not hate its artificial restrictions).

But even that is tricky. What’s the goal here, after all? In the best of all possible worlds, school math would be about learning a set of definitions, techniques. and ideas; but in the real world it is frequently about learning easily automated algorithms. Schools don’t want students who multiply polynomials by typing them into Mathematica — and perhaps there is a point, at least for your first one hundred polynomials, where it really is the best use of your time to do the multiplication by hand?

Point is, it’s easy to complain, but in a country where so many SW businesses have failed, and so many others have stagnated after three good editions of their software (*cough* Intuit *cough*), I’d rather see Wolfram continue to play it cautious with the business strategy, and allow the product to just keep getting better — and it does keep getting better, there is a lot more good stuff in 8 than just natural language input.