Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on February 5, 2009
When is a $300 software package a bargain? When it would otherwise be a $2,500 application. Wolfram Research’s Mathematica has long be legendary among folks who use serious mathematics both for its ability to do just about anything and for its stratospheric prices. Today, Wolfram finally bowed to the inevitable and announced a long expected personal edition of Mathematica 7, a full version of the program priced at a relatively reasonable $295.
If you don’t know what Mathematica (or its somewhat similar competitor, MapleSoft Maple 12) is, you almost certainly don’t need it. It’s a huge and ornery with thousands of built-in functions, ranging from the sort of thing you find in Excel to today’s Wolfram “function of the day,” the regularized incomplete beta function (a kind of integral).
Lot's of people became familiar with Mathematica (or Maple) during their student days, since they are widely used in calculus and other math classes and many universities license the software for use by students and faculty. But professionals who might occasionally find Mathematica very useful certainly have been dissuaded by that $2.500 price tag.
Wolfram's licensing, famously strict, restricts Mathematica Home Edition to non-commercial use. It cannot be registered to a business address and it cannot be ordered using a corporate credit card. There's an even cheaper student edition, generally available for around $150, but Wolfram tries a lot harder than most software publishers to make sure that it is only purchased and used by bona fide students.