Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Numerical math consortium - the new OpenMath?

In the news recently is the numerical mathematics consortium,
http://www.nmconsortium.org, which is attempting to define an open
standard for numerical math. But how does it expect to succeed where
OpenMath, http://www.openmath.org/ has so far failed?

When you look at the expertise of the NMC in numerical math an odd picture
emerges:

MathSoft make a computationally light-weight product, MathCAD. Their
real innovation and experience is in the interface design, not in numerical
algorithms.
MapleSoft have no real experience in numerical computation either, instead
buying in their numerical libraries from NAG.
National Instruments is a major company but one who have never developed
numerical software, instead purchasing MatrixX after Mathworks were
forced to sell it.

Only INRIA have any real experience. Being academic collaborators on
other open source consortia, they might be expected to join in any such
an effort.

Absent are obvious significant experts in numerical math- Mathworks,
Wolfram Research, NAG etc.

Now look back at OpenMath. It was arguably the symbolic version of the
NMC. The main contributors were NAG, makers of Axiom, then a recent
addition to the symbolic computation market, contributors to computer
algebra systems GAP, Reduce and MAGMA, all fading even then and
MapleSoft, a significant company but not leading in their field.

Just as MapleSoft once gathered minor players in computer algebra around
them in the hope of competing with Mathematica, now it seems National
Instruments are gathering minor numerical math partners in the hope of
taking on Mathworks (who they are in unrelated conflict with) and Wolfram.

Will it work this time? The commercial forces are bigger, but
ultimately, it can only work if they make a standard that is any good,
and since the experience comes from INRIA, who contributed to the
bloated un-implementable OpenMath standard, it could be another good idea
which will take a decade to go nowhere.

No comments: