The "founder's letter" this year written by Google's Sergey Brin seemed to have undertones of skepticism -- potentially in regards to the imminent release of Wolfram|Alpha. Referring to search engines that understand more documents and queries using Artificial Intelligence, Brin says:
Others claim to have accomplished this, and Google’s systems have more smarts behind the curtains than may be apparent from the outside, but the field as a whole is still shy of where I would have expected it to be.
Larry Dignan has a feeling that this is a "veiled reference" to Wolfram|Alpha, and I wouldn't disagree. The buzz surrounding this new service is incredible, and I for one am looking forward to trying it out.
But does Google have to worry? Not a chance -- if anyone should worry, it's Wolfram|Alpha. The size and quality of Google's search index is nearly impossible to match, and would take many years and incredible amounts of money to get right. Look at Microsoft's failed efforts -- if they can't bring down Google with a Billion dollars a year, (maybe) nobody can.
On the flip side, now that Google's seen what Wolfram|Alpha is all about, there are plenty of smart people at Google that will no doubt think something similar might make a good 20% time project. I do have to admit though, I'm far more excited about this service than I ever was things like Wikia Search -- what do you think?