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R Wins?

Robert A. Muenchen at the University of Tennessee wrote a blog entry entitled “Will 2015 be the Beginning of the End for SAS and SPSS?.”   In it, he projects that R will overtake SAS and SPSS as the tool of choice by analysts in 2015 based on it’s popularity with professors and college students.  It is a rational argument.

Based on my experience working around Silicon Valley, I would posit that R is the tool of choice for startups who are often staffed by recent college students and their professors.

However, I also have one foot in the enterprise IT world where SAS and SPSS are well entrenched.  There is so much corporate investment in these products that it will be costly to replace them.  That isn’t to say that the IT buyer won’t be considering alternatives when their annual renewals hit the budget.

But – there will be other considerations besides costs.   SAS and SPSS are both surrounded by software environments for the entire data lifecyle.  SAS, for example, is attempting to expand it’s footprint in the enterprise, with new visualization software, in memory and grid computing that act as datamarts, and new software for the extraction, transformation, and loading of data.  Like IBM, SAS wants to offer an entire analysis ecosystem making it more attractive to the enterprise IT shop.  The open source ecosystem for R is not that mature.  If it was easy for open source to penetrate the enterprise, wouldn’t MySQL (the open source relational database) be the corporate standard?

However, a large company like Oracle could be the point of integration for all things R, with price points that are attractive – similar to what they are doing with MySQL.  That would give R the tailwind from the academic community and coporate respectability.

In the meantime, it will likely be a case of using the best tool for the job/budget.  To quote a commenter (sorry I don’t remember where I saw your comment):

“I learned R to graduate, SPSS to get a job, and SAS to make a living”

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