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Re: Re: Range of Use of Mathematica


On 27 May 2008, at 20:16, AES wrote:

> In article <g1e351$eqq$1 at smc.vnet.net>,
> Murray Eisenberg <murray at math.umass.edu> wrote:
>
>> My impression is that in (much) earlier Mathematica versions, WRI  
>> went
>> out of its way to encourage and foster such 3rd party books (some of
>> which were, in fact, written by or co-authored by insiders).  Either
>> this is not being done or, if it is, there's a considerable lag in  
>> such
>> efforts seeing the light of day.
>>
>> I remain convinced that some of the early success of Mathematica  
>> was the
>> existence of such books, beyond the intrinsic value of the software
>> itself.  And I continue to hope that the seemingly print-averse,
>> pro-electronic enthusiasts within WRI do not totally dominate the
>> direction this takes.
>
> Murray and I are of course singing from exactly the same songbook in
> expressing views like these.  I'll go further:  WRIs failure to have
> done this with the ("revolutionary") transition to 6 is not just
> inexplicable but absolutely insane.  Combined with Mathematica's
> pricing, I predict that it will do substantial damage to Mathematica's
> competitive status and market success.
>


There is a well known and time confirmed rule about all such  
predictions: check if the "soothsayer" has staked some of his own  
money on his prophecy coming true. If not, ignore it.

One strange property the ivory tower has, is that its walls are not  
transparent and for some completely obscure the view of the outside  
world, leading to a strange kind of collective solipsism. But there  
really is a real world outside The Tower and it often works by quite  
different rules from the world inside.

Let me give just two examples. A few years ago I had a conversation  
with one of the main developers of the typesetting capabilities of  
Mathematica. I mentioned the fact that TeX was so established as the  
standard in academic publication in such areas as maths and physics  
that it looked extremely unlikely that Mathematica (or Publicon) could  
challenge it. He replied that they had never had such intention. TeX  
was indeed so firmly established that it seemed impossible to  
challenge, and besides, since academics expect most things to be free  
it was not really worth the effort. But there were countless companies  
and organizations outside the Academia, which needed a technical  
publishing tool, were prepare to pay for it, and had never even heard  
of TeX. One of them, if I recall correctly, was the US Mint, which, if  
I recall correctly, actually adopted Mathematica as a standard.

On another occasion I listened to a lecture by one of the original  
developers of Mathematica, who talked about some issues involved in  
promoting Mathematica in the corporate market (in this case, big  
financial institutions). One of the problems turned out that  
Mathematica was too cheap; such companies are used to programs that  
cost order of magnitude more than Mathematica does, and find it hard  
to believe that something as cheap as Mathematica could be a serious  
tool. I do not, however, remember he mentioning the existence (or non  
existence) of 3rd party books as being a major factor in purchasing  
decisions by any company.  Note that Wolfram claims among its  
customers all the Fortune 500 companies and that the great majority of  
published books on Mathematica involve purely academic applications.  
So I doubt that they had any influence on Mathematca's sales to the  
corporate world.

So the "market" in this case is not as simple or homogeneous as it may  
appear from inside The Tower.
Finally, one should not forget that there are lots of free computer  
algebra systems available, many of them excellent in what they do.  
Wolfram's main concern must be to make sure that mathematica does not  
join this already crowded collection. So far WRI has been pretty good  
at doing this and I predict it is going to continue to do so for quite  
a few years still to come.

Andrzej Kozlowski


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