Imagine you've got your eye on a fancy new digital camera, or cell phone, or iWhatever. It's expensive. It'll probably get cheaper if you wait. But how do you know when to pull the trigger so that you can get your new toy as soon as possible without risking looking like a chump when the price drops the next day? Just ask Microsoft.
Prodcast, a new "experimental system" from Microsoft Research, uses all the information it can get its algorithms on to provide predictions about how the price of a consumer product is likely to change in the near future. Using data like price histories, sales volume, seasonality, and competition, the Prodcast system is able to make a fairly accurate educated guess about whether you'd end up paying more or less for something (and by how much) if you were to wait a week, a month, or several months. All you have to do is put in what you're thinking about buying, and Prodcast will come back with a simple little graphic like this:
In this case, you asked about a product that currently costs $763. Prodcast dug up all the data and crunched the numbers, and it's telling you that it's 85% certain that within one month, the price of the product will be somewhere in between $792 and $670, and it's significantly more likely (about three times more likely) to end up on the cheaper side. Based on this info, you can then decide whether it's worth it to you to wait a month to save up to $122. And if you decide not to wait, and then the price drops, hey, at least you knew it was gonna happen and you don't have to feel gypped.
Prodcast isn't currently available as a standalone app or website (don't we wish!), but that may change after the system is officially presented at the International Conference on Knowledge Discovery and Data Mining next month.