You may have heard about Wolfram Alpha, tech savant Stephen Wolfram's new query-answering search engine. And if you follow gadget and tech reviews, you've probably read about what the engine can't do, despite it's immense potential.
The first iteration of Wolfram Alpha is somewhat unwieldy--especially if you're used to searching with more traditional engines like Google. The other frequent complaint is that it is long on statistical and scientific answers and short on pop cultural ones, bringing up only the bare bones bio on famous people and places. Wired complained that Wolfram Alpha is not "cool."
The thing to keep in mind, however, is that Wolfram doesn't think like most other people. The kind of knowledge he's interested in--questions that have real factual or mathematical answers--are what his search engine is all about. Scientists and mathematicians will make great use of this rapid and reliable encyclopedia cum calculator, probably by asking questions that most of us would never think to ask, as PC World points out. In short, it creates new answers to computational questions, rather than scouring the web for already existing information.
As Wolfram demonstrated in a presentation aired by Big Think, you could look up your hourly salary and the engine will tell you how much you'll gross in a week, a month or a year. Other engines could get this information, but not in the direct, just-the-facts-please way Wolfram's engine brings it to you.
Wolfram Alpha is far from complete and requires something of a learning curve to master. But don't bash it because it's unapologetically nerdy. No one designed it to be hip.