First let's deal with the big negative I've seen on a number of websites including the BBC: Wolfram Alpha is American-centric. Well, yes, it kind of is. This will be because it's starting up and America is the biggest market it has to serve. Personally I find that understandable - presumably others feel differently.
For those of you who may have missed the hype, Wolfram Alpha is the new search engine (sorry, computer knowledge system or whatever they want to call it instead). I blogged the beta version here and it's gone public today. My initial problems still stand, it's not going to conquer Google anytime soon for the reasons in the earlier post.
There are other issues it will have to overcome, though, and the main one is that people just aren't going to search in the way it wants for the moment. I applied the usual scientific test to any search engine and put my own name in to see what happened. Google found screeds, first of which was my own website (thank goodness).
Wolfram Alpha said it wasn't sure what to do with the data.
I tried a few more ideas and it still said it wasn't sure. Then I tried some of the suggested ways of entering search data - it suggests things you can do on its own homepage. And yes, they work. I entered my date of birth and it told me how long ago it was (I actually know my own age already but never mind), what day of the week it was, all sorts of things.
The difficulty for the moment is going to be that I don't want to go to a search facility and be told how I may use it. Google sold on its simplicity from day one - it was just a box and you entered what you wanted to know about and it found it. Wolfram Alpha, for the moment, just doesn't do it. It's a work in progress and unless everyone is prepared to change the way they search overnight, to me it's gone beyond its beta stage too early.