Monday, May 18, 2009

A Worthy Joust for Google?

Henry Blodget boldly writes the obituary for the latest Google competitor, the Wolfram Alpha Computational Engine, this morning in the Business Insider. Blodget is absolutely right as is this commentator that Google has too much of a head start and has enough of the search problem solved that any incremental improvement a competitor provides will quickly be incorporated in their own product.

Google will find its match some day, and as the comment states it might be mobile, but I doubt it. Google has won the HTML platform search, which means that any web page that renders in a browser, including mobile browsers will still most easily be searched using Google. Search will not be all about HTML and browsers forever. The next web platform is where the innovator that beats Google will arise - the television. Specifically, the internet is coming to your TV, through devices like Tivo, Roku and the game consoles; through cable and satellite set top boxes; and through the TVs themselves. The TV UI does not automatically seem suited for browser based HTML documents. Rather the norm is likely to be a combination of transparent menus, scrolling tickers, sidebars, headers and footers. HTML pages may still be viewed as in the web, or there may be a completely new paradigm. This is where the Google competitor will have their day.

That said, Wolfram Alpha, does not index HTML web pages, it gathers, consolidates, organizes and displays information. So Blodget does not have this one precisely correct. While a Google competitor will not emerge in the HTML/Browser-verse, a better organizer of knowledge, that organizes information from multiple sources including web pages could. Wolfram Alpha is a step in that direction.

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