Wolfram Alpha's Computational Search Engine Goes Pro, Hopes You'll Pony Up

Wolfram Alpha doesn't have the buzz of a Google or Bing, but the unique search company still has some serious life left in it. Aside from being chosen as the go-to source for Apple's Siri, the company's launching a new "Pro" service that builds on its already-expanding computational knowledge engine. "Wolfram|Alpha Pro is a major step forward for Wolfram|Alpha and the concept of computational knowledge," said Stephen Wolfram, Founder and CEO of Wolfram Alpha LLC. "It is the single most important development for Wolfram|Alpha since the original website launched in 2009."

Wolfram|Alpha Pro emphasizes closer interaction between the user and the Wolfram|Alpha computational knowledge engine. A key feature is the ability to upload virtually any common kind of file or data for automatic analysis. Raw tabular data, images, audio, XML, and dozens of specialized scientific, medical, and mathematical formats are among the more than 60 formats currently supported by Wolfram|Alpha Pro.

"Our goal is to do what a top data scientist would do if given the user's data -- but to do it automatically in just a few seconds," said Stephen Wolfram. "Wolfram|Alpha Pro automatically applies a large number of algorithms and heuristics, as well as uses its built-in knowledge, to derive the most important conclusions from data, and generate an organized report for the user." Wolfram|Alpha Pro also allows free-form linguistics to be used to make specific queries about uploaded data.

Wolfram|Alpha Pro also adds richer output to Wolfram|Alpha, automatically generating CDF (Computable Document Format) with interactive controls for animation and manipulation. In addition, users of Wolfram|Alpha Pro gain options for customizing graphical and tabular output for presentations and other purposes, and for downloading raw generated data in more than 60 formats.

Wolfram|Alpha Pro includes a host of other convenient new features, such as history, favorites, display options, whole-page download, and an on-screen keyboard for special technical symbols.

Free trial access to Wolfram|Alpha Pro is available immediately, with subscriptions starting at an introductory price of $4.99 per month, or $2.99 per month for students. Educational and site pricing are also available. The "standard" Wolfram|Alpha will remain free of charge to everyone, but only subscribers will have access to new Pro-level features and functionality.

It's hard to say if too many people will actually pony up for search results. There are so many excellent free options that it makes it difficult to justify, but if this option fits your highly specific needs, it might be worth the splurge.