R vs. SAS

January 17, 2009

(This article was first published on Statistical Graphics and more » R, and kindly contributed to R-bloggers)

Everything started with the article in the NYT talking about R – and of course – did mention SAS. Andrew Gelman picked up the article and posted his take on the matter. Maybe it are sentences like Andrew’s “And it’s good to hear that SAS is in trouble” and Anne H. Milley, director of technology product marketing at SAS: “We have customers who build engines for aircraft. I am happy they are not using freeware when I get on a jet.”, which did stir the readers up.

No doubt, once the scene is set, the ring is open and Andrew’s post got 35 often very engaged comments (as of now). I do not want to open another round of pros and cons of R and SAS – I think almost everything is said; whereas I am unsure about whether or not anyone did mention the horrible graphics of SAS yet – but wonder why there is such a polarization between the two camps?

The only thing I can think of would be a situation where people are forced to work with a tool they would not choose on their own; or more specific: students did learn using R for statistical computing at the university and then join a company which uses SAS. Anyway, it is hard to think of R loosing ground again in the future and SAS will definitely loose more and more users to R which are unlikely to ever use SAS even if R would vanish.

PS: When we talk about SAS, we should not forget to mention John Sall’s JMP and the new kid on the block “SAS Stat Studio” – both not SAS mainstream, but really useful for analyzing data.

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