With news that the Wolfram alpha search engine currently serves 25% of Siri’s search queries, one has to wonder what the future relationship between Apple and Dr. Wolfram will be — and whether Wolfram Alpha will play an even larger role on the iPhone 5 if Siri gets upgraded to the more powerful “Assistant.”
I almost jumped out of my seat in intrigue today when I scanned the iPhone 5 news and saw — in a related story — that the ingenious search engine Wolfram Alpha currently serves up 25% of Siri’s search results for the iPhone 4S. Search is a big interest of mine, and I have long argued that when Apple developed Siri, they were subversively getting into the search engine business. I wrote an article entitled “iPhone 4S’s Siri Is a Search Engine, Will Compete With Google Search” back on October 26th, thinking that it would be a poignant story that might catch fire in the blogosphere.
But the news today that Apple is leveraging Wolfram Alpha in Siri search confirms (to me, at least) that Cupertino is trying to develop a new search way to search that differs from Google. From The New York Times: “Unlike Google or Microsoft’s Bing, Wolfram Alpha does not forage the Web. It culls its own painstakingly curated database to find answers.” Rather than calling it a “search engine,” Dr. Wolfram describes it as a “computational knowledge engine.” Sounds a lot like Siri, doesn’t it?
In this way, I think it is clear that Apple understands that the Wolfram Alpha approach to search — leveraging massive databases of information, rather than skimming the internet and giving users search results — is the future of search with technology like Siri, since it works more like an artificial intelligence than Google.
So, how could this news factor into the iPhone 5?
As you may recall, there have been rumors that iOS 6 will feature a new, upgraded voice recognition engine that will replace Siri. We wrote an article about it back on December 7th, wherein we reported that recent job postings at Cupertino suggested that Apple might be looking to expand Siri to the rumored “Assistant” voice recognition platform that was rumored in the Summer of 2011.
What I’m thinking here is an acquisition.
What would the chances be that Apple could make a bid to purchase the fledgling Wolfram Alpha and subsume its technology into Apple’s own data centers? Considering that Apple purchases and partners with technologies that it may or may not ever use down the line, it would seem that if Wolfram Alpha is already doing heavy lifting for Siri, the two entities could tie the knot sooner rather than later.
I have contacted Wolfram Alpha’s PR department to see if I can get some further answers to questions regarding their current relationship with Apple. We’ll see what they have to say.
In the meantime, look for Apple to become a bigger and bigger player in search, with their mobile devices leading the way as new tools for searching on the go. You read it here first.
By Michael Nace