I love Wolfram Alpha - not just for what it does now, but for what it promises.
Wolfram Alpha makes the web, or at least part of it, computable. I.e. unlike an ordinary search engine like Google - which does a good job of return data and results that are already published on the web - Wolfram Alpha actually ers *creates* new results from existing data. As well as performing computations, it can do things like compare data sets, show trends and interpret (some) natural language questions to give meaningful answers.
What I really hope is that Wolfram is going to take their technology (and any bits of string that might be holding it together just for the moment) and apply it to the business world.
For example, I work in the communications and contact centre industry. In a contact centre environment, the business (at different levels) needs to be able to answer a whole host of questions. Questions such as: who is my best agent? How many calls did I receive today compared to last week? What predicted staff level will I need on Wednesday next week based on my history of Wednesdays? How is customer satisfaction doing? How many calls are converting to sales, and where does this happen? If customers are defecting, do they mention to which competitors and why?
Now, as things stand all these questions *can* be answered, through a mixed bag of data capture and data analytics/mining solutions, including speech recognition systems. But to do this, someone has to integrate these solutions, open up their databases and write a ton of (often complex) reports. The average call centre supervisor may not have the skills to do this. And even if they do, they may not have the time. And what's more - if the question needs to changed, it will mean time spent writing new reports, assuming the data has been captured and available in the first place.
This is what I love about the promise of Wolfram Alpha. Assuming that all your IT systems are just publishing your data in a structured form where WA can collect it, then could WA just answer those straightforward questions - expressed in the way that call centre managers and business stakeholders and marketeers want to ask them - such as: how did my call volume this week compare to the same period last year? Which self-service menu items was most popular? Which customer calls the most?
No more report writing; no more figuring out complex database queries. The cost savings would be enormous...