Wolfram Alpha: Wikipedia killer?

Despite being a devotee of all things Google, I’ve been incredibly excited about Wolfram Alpha. I’ve been using it quite a bit and have its quirks and limitations pretty much down. Those limitations mean that it won’t be a Google killer, but it will be especially useful to students and teachers. Given that, I was more excited about Microsoft’s “decision engine,” Bing, than I have been about a Microsoft product in a while. Could it combine the focused precision of Alpha with the richness of Google?

During a break tonight between working on scheduling and making some website updates (and trying to block out the tweeting of our baby chicks (a story unto itself; I’ll stick with Bing for now), I pulled up bing.com. Although it isn’t live yet, the site features an interesting video about Bing and what it can provide searchers that other search engines can’t.

Maybe it’s because I can’t get my hands on a live version yet. As soon as I can, I’ll give it a go-round from a proper “just how well can this serve our students trying to leach meaningful information from the web” perspective. For now, though, it just looks like Google to me. Sure, it does some neat things when it senses that you want to buy something, but the ideas of getting a map when you search for a business, related searches, or predictive search are nothing new in Googleland.

Am I missing something revolutionary here? This isn’t my typical anti-Microsoft, pro-Google sentiment. When I saw Alpha, I was genuinely wowed and now turn to Alpha (and point students and teachers to Alpha) when its abilities fit my needs. I didn’t feel that when I watched the Bing video. I do like the idea that Bing includes credible sources, I assume drawn from the now defunct Encarta.

Ultimately, though, I’m just left with the feeling that Bing is simply a spiffed-up of Google with Microsoft tools like Expedia and Encarta working in the background. Talk back and tell me what I’m missing.

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