While it’s nice to see people not treating Google as inviolable, color me a natural-language search skeptic. Leaving aside how insanely difficult that problem is, and leaving aside that people who know the Parc technology that Powerset has licensed say it is as error-prone as you would imagine, I’m still not convinced we would know better search when we see it.
Why? Because the situations where search could be most improved are when we don’t know what we want. If we want specific stuff, like Tiger Woods world golf ranking, or the population of Bolivia, or even a Powerpoint presentation mentioning my name, Google does great. Where is falls down is where all search must fall down: Interpreting the messiness of our own brains, and our own inability to articulate what we really want.
[Update] Fellow curmudgeon Danny Sullivan has a great rant on the subject here.