How To Buy Knowledge

Yesterday, I went to the Karneval der Kulturen with my best friend. She is studying BioChemistry and I am always wondering how smart she can be to study something which is that complex. (Ö_Ö)

Naturally, we always talk about interesting topics which would be of interest for A Girl’s Business and we stumbled over ‘Wolfram׀Alpha’, which is described by founder Dr. Stephen Wolfram  as a “knowledge engine that computes answers to questions”.

For example, typing in “GDP of France versus Britain” the result will be a comparison with charts and other figures of the two countries’ GDP . You can write down huge mathematical formulas and in the end get not only the solution but also a graph which is showing the root. However, when you ask about the best sci-fi movie in history it will give you a table with the percentage of people having the surname ‘Best’ in America.

Now in spite of that, it is safe to say, that Wolfram׀Alpha is awesome, especially since it was voted the greatest computer innovation of 2009 by Popular Science.

What makes Wolfram Alpha interesting for businesses?

People like Pete Codella who operates Codella Marketing, a public relation company and is also invested in other PR and marketing related enterprises, argues that especially when searching for information about companies, Wolfram׀Alpha is superior to Google or other search engines. As an example, take a look at thisentry about major  U.S. publicly traded sportswear and equipment supplier Nike.

I would have loved to write a whole article about how (THE HELL) this works but then I was primarily wondering how this research engine was making profit.

After some research I found a gorgeous article by Ryan Singel who is a U.S. Amercian blogger and journalist who covers tech business, tech policy, civil liberty and privacy issues for the online technology news webside

He is using an interview with Wolfram׀Alpha creator Stephen Wolfram to explain that the search engine was not his primary invention but that his application Mathematica, a computational software program used in scientific, engineering, and mathematical fields and other areas of technical computing which is used by Fortune 500 companies, government departments and thousands of universities worldwide was already created 20 years ago!

And interestingly enough, even though one can make similar queries with Mathematica compared to Wolfram׀Alpha, one has to pay $ 295 for the home edition and up to $2495 for use in an enterprise.

However, Stephen Wolfram explains, that the users of Wolfram׀Alpha are often in school or university and he hopes that when they grow up, they will have a lot of faith in products from Wolfram and therefore purchase their other products.

How to make money with apps?

 Alex Burke, who holds a degree in environmental design and a Master of Arts in information management argues that one should invest in Wolfram׀Alpha because one of the company’s  solution to make profit is the creation of a wide range of very focused apps, for computer network administrators, and those for classes, including astronomy, calculus and algebra.

It is interesting to know that even though now the Wolfram|Alpha apps are various and are only costing $1.99 this was quite different when the application was first launched.

I found a blog post by Brian Heater who writes about technology related topics in newspaper like Spin, The Onion, Entertainment Weekly and The New York Press, which shows that the app cost nearly $ 50 in 2009 but because of a lot of negative comments this was later changed to $1.99.

Now that I know how Wolfram Alpha is regenerating revenue I was actually quite interested to know more about how one can make money when creating apps for iTunes

From apples main page on how to sell ones content, I found out that there are two different application developer programmes: the iOS Developer Programme and the iOS  Developer Enterprise Programmethat enables companies for a yearly fee of  $ 299 to distribute your proprietary, in-house apps to employees or members of ones organization. One can also securely host and wirelessly distribute or update in-house apps to employees.

I wanted to know more about profit generated by the iTunes store for Apple and I found an article by John Paczkowski, an Amercican Journalist writing for AllThingsDigital, an online publication that specialises in technology and startup company news. He argues that Apple may be making 30% profit from every non-free application but the distribution and setting up of the App store is so expensive that the real reason for having it, is to make people interested into Apple software and ,therefore, sell more hardware products like the iPhone or iPod.

I also found a blog entry by Eliot Van Buskirk,who is a longtime technology writer for, CNET, Wired and other publications; also he has written two books.

He is telling us especially for third part companies creating apps is not always without worries. Van Buskrik is giving the example of Camera+, a camera app for the iPhone that has grossed $2.7 million in sales revenue for its creator Lisa Bettany. However, after a new feature was added, Apple rejected the app because it allegedly violated Apple’s iPhone Developer Program License Agreement. Some time later, Steve Jobbs presented a similar application as the Camerca+ one as Apple’s new idea.

As we can see, a third party can make profit out of the creation of an app but nonetheless, Apple decides which applications it wants to publish. Also, companies can use shared apps to give employees the possibility to have same interfaces and no confusion.

For Wolfram Alpha however, selling apps might be not enough to break-even. They probably need to look for other revenue sources.

What do you think?

Are apps a good way to make money?

6 thoughts on “How To Buy Knowledge

  1. hello, Sophie!
    You did a lot of work, thank you for that!! How did you find this Wolfram????! This is an amazing app, it can give a clear overview of a company. Nice)!
    You found so much information)
    Concerning the question, yes, certainly, the apps are a good way to make money. As you wrote, this App generates Revenue and moreover it attracts new and potential customers, who are using this applications and may be in the future will be interested in some products of Wolfram. A good strategy though)

    good job!)

  2. hi Sophie,

    thank you for explaining Wolfram Alpha a little bit more. I already heard of it but did not yet get all of it.
    I love apps and I am always looking for new interesting ones but of course, they can’t be too expensive (I am not surprised that no one would buy the Wolfram Alpha App for 50 $!). Actually, a good friend of mine creates apps but as it is sold only for a minimum of price, it doesn’t return a lot of profit. Nevertheless, it is a nice incidental earning 😉

    one of my favourite apps is the following:
    I couldn’t travel this easily without it!

  3. Hi Sophie!

    I had to smile when I saw you had written about “Wolfram Alpha” since we just talked about that application in maths class today!
    Since I had never heard about it before today, I was quite interested in your article and the information you provided. I really hope some apps can be used for free in the future but it is also understandable that companies need money to run their projects, for research and development purposes, etc. So I think it will be inevitable for them to charge money. But the more users they can acquire, the less they would have to charge, right? I think there is still a lot of potential in those so-called apps. So let’s see what surprises us next.

  4. Hi Sophie!

    I really enjoyed your post! I often use Wolfram Alpha for my maths homework but all of this background information and how they use apps to make profit was new to me!
    Keep it up 😉

  5. Hey Sophie,

    that was a really interesting post, and certainly good getting to know Wolfram Alpha since I’ve never heard of it before.
    I like the way you explained how it works, and especially your thinking about how apps can be used to make money.
    I think that they are very good for businesses to generate revenue because there is still so much more in store for them, and they always will be used. And people who already use those apps and are used to them and how they facilitate their lives will look for more in the future.
    Well Done!

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