Our relationship with SPSS is good but this thread makes me wonder about future pricing.
We are in the midst of renegotiating our SAS license and it looks like we will pay more for far less. We had unlimited copies on most products & platforms. They will no longer do unlimited copies, which means we'll have to stop central funding & remove them from our electronic download area. Our labs have 700 machines, all with SAS for the moment. We plan to hack that back to a single lab. I could hardly believe they were being so drastic. They know that we will end up with S-PLUS, JMP and SPSS as a free downloads and SAS as a $50 purchase at our computer store. They say most universities are getting more software for the same price & that we are one of the few to see such a negative impact.
JMP is a nice package and has added many features over the years aimed at social science folks. It even has Item Response Theory, which SPSS has not yet done. Its inclusion of neural networks & decision trees helps avoid separate and costly data mining tools. The main thing it lacks for social scientists is the ability to handle "check all that apply" items on surveys. It is easy to use but its style of working is quite different from SPSS. Its unlimited-copies license is affordable and makes distribution much easier. However, with SAS changing its pricing so dramatically, is JMP next?
Even before our SAS pricing change, several professors converted their classes to the open source R package. It is a very good language which has an SPSS-like interface, R Commander, (http://socserv.mcmaster.ca/jfox/Misc/Rcmdr/). R Commander is a recent development and has come a long way in a short period, but it is not as capable as the other interfaces yet. R is available at http://www.r-project.org/ and the "Members and Donors" page there is impressive. Similar to Sakai, if you follow that area. R also links to Weka, an open-source data mining package that we have just started reviewing (http://www.cs.waikato.ac.nz/ml/weka/ ).
S-PLUS is compatible with R (R is an implementation of the S language in S-PLUS) and it has a top-notch user interface. A limited-functionality version is free to students at http://elms03.e-academy.com/splus/ and almost any level of site license from the company includes unlimited copies for student-owned machines. With R available in open source, Insightful is unlikely to raise prices sharply.
The comparative review of stat packages at http://www.ats.ucla.edu/STAT/technicalreports/ is quite good and it is followed by a good article on R.
It looks like this will be a very "interesting" year.
Bob Muenchen (pronounced Min'-chen), Manager
Statistical Consulting Center
U of TN Office of Information Technology
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Web: http://oit.utk.edu/scc/ <http://oit.utk.edu/scc/>
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