Mathematica Made Affordable

Posted by: Stephen Wildstrom on February 5, 2009

Mathematica.JPGWhen 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.

Reader Comments

David Jamess

February 6, 2009 8:41 AM

Your article should point out that unlike many "student" and "home" versions of software, Wolfram make them full-feature. The ONLY difference apart from the price is the license.

Jon Bobbittoo

February 6, 2009 11:41 AM

"If you don’t know what Mathematica (or its somewhat similar competitor, MapleSoft Maple 12) is, you almost certainly don’t need it."

Although I'm sure Wolfram is excited to see this article, personally I strongly disagree with this statement. In the recent versions of Mathematica new features such as image processing tools, pre-curated data, and instant interactivity have made it useful for much more than heavy math computations. I use Mathematica for presentations, analyzing web traffic, and even making videos. You make it sound like it's the same old tool, how could this be true when the number of functions is up in the thousands from a couple hundred in the earlier versions.

A better statement is: if you don't know what Mathematica is, then you probably are wasting your time with several bundles of software instead of working in one environment.

Steve Wildstrom

February 6, 2009 1:12 PM

@Joe Bobbitoo--Actually, I very much agree with you. I'm working on a review of Mathematica 7 but the thing is so broad and deep that it is very hard to get my arms around it. An example of a use probably never imagined even by Stephen Wolfram: I am making a rug based on a cellular automaton (Rule 18) and used Mathematica's CellularAutomaton and DisplayArray functions to generate the cartoon (pattern).

Steve Wildstrom

February 6, 2009 1:40 PM

@Joe Bobbitoo--Actually, I very much agree with you. I'm working on a review of Mathematica 7 but the thing is so broad and deep that it is very hard to get my arms around it. An example of a use probably never imagined even by Stephen Wolfram: I am making a rug based on a cellular automaton (Rule 18) and used Mathematica's CellularAutomaton and DisplayArray functions to generate the cartoon (pattern).

Steeve D.N

February 16, 2009 2:24 PM

Why the limit to US and Canada? I really do not understand the reason behind that restriction.

shyam chhutani

July 20, 2009 7:28 AM

is Mathematica available in Asian Countries like India

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Bloomberg Businessweek writers Peter Burrows, Cliff Edwards, Olga Kharif, Aaron Ricadela, and Douglas MacMillan, dig behind the headlines to analyze what’s really happening throughout the world of technology. Tech Beat covers everything from tech bellwethers like Apple, Google, and Intel and emerging new leaders such as Facebook to new technologies, trends, and controversies.

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