Industry watch: Industry watch is a semi-regular column that looks at commercial applications of natural language technology

Robert Dale*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


"Powerset Hype to Boiling Point", said a February headline on TechCrunch. In the last installment of this column, I asked whether 2007 would be the year of question-answering. My query was occasioned by a number of new attempts at natural language question-answering that were being promoted in the marketplace as the next advance upon search, and particularly by the buzz around the stealth-mode natural language search company Powerset. That buzz continued with a major news item in the first quarter of this year: in February, Xerox PARC and PowerSet struck a much-anticipated deal whereby PowerSet won exclusive rights to use PARC's natural language technology, as announced in a VentureBeat posting. Following the scoop, other news sources drew the battle lines with titles like "Can natural language search bring down Google?", "Xerox vs. Google?", and "Powerset and Xerox PARC team up to beat Google". An April posting on Barron's Online noted that an analyst at Global Equities Research had cited Powerset in his downgrading of Google from Buy to Neutral. And, all this on the basis of a product which, at the time of writing, very few people have actually seen. Indications are that the search engine is expected to go live by the end of the year, so we have a few more months to wait to see whether this really is a Google-killer. Meanwhile, another question remaining unanswered is what happened to the Powerset engineer who seemed less sure about the technology's capabilities: see the segment at the end of D7TV's PartyCrasher video from the Powerset launch party. For a more confident appraisal of natural language search, check out the podcast of Barney Pell, CEO of Powerset, giving a lecture at the University of California-Berkeley.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)185-189
Number of pages5
JournalNatural Language Engineering
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2007


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