Several cynical takes I read on yesterday’s Google Searchology event suggest that it and related announcements are directed at stealing Wolfram|Alpha‘s thunder. I think that’s incorrect but Google is certainly aware of the new engine’s impending launch and is keeping an eye on it.
For its part Wolfram is going to webcast its launch or pre-launch:
We’ll be making our first attempt to go live with Wolfram|Alpha this Friday evening, May 15. We’ll start webcasting our preparations at 7pm CDT (UTC -5). We’ll work through checklists, do a final test of our infrastructure—and then, if all goes well, within an hour or two we’ll have Wolfram|Alpha live on the public web for the first time. Along the way, we’ll include behind-the-scenes views of what it’s taken to create Wolfram|Alpha.
That could either prove to be a great bit of PR or its opposite, depending on how it goes. The official launch is Monday May 18, assuming all goes well.