April 1, 2010
Just in time for the arrival of Apple's iPad on Saturday, Wolfram|Alpha on Thursday introduced a new mobile Web site and drastically cut the price of its mobile app for iPhone and iPod touch devices from $50 to $2.
Introduced last May amid hype about its potential as a Google-killer, Wolfram|Alpha has proven to be a valuable computational tool, but something less than a mass-market phenomenon. In a blog post explaining his company's new focus, Schoeller Porter, senior software engineer at Wolfram Research, says that the top priority of the company's new managing director, Barak Berkowitz, is getting more people to use Wolfram|Alpha, a tacit admission that $50 apps don't sell well in a market where the average app price is about $2.50. Porter states that the company wants to make Wolfram|Alpha ubiquitous. "As we approach the anniversary of the launch of Wolfram|Alpha, we'll be moving into Wolfram|Alpha's next phase, centered on growth -- increasing the exposure and use of Wolfram|Alpha both by individuals seeking knowledge and by developers building computational knowledge into their applications in interesting ways," he said. The company's last such effort along these lines was its announcement that Microsoft had signed a deal to use the Wolfram|Alpha API for its Bing search engine. In its effort to appeal to more users, Wolfram|Alpha is betting that its new mobile site, designed to be accessed through touch-screen smart phones and mobile devices, will offer an improved user experience. The company is also offering early adopters of its mobile app -- those who paid $50 or $20 during the company's December 2009 holiday sale -- a refund "if the recent price change made you unhappy with what you paid." The refund form must be submitted by May 3, 2010.
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