You too can calculate a linear trend, for just $1,800

I just saw the announcement that SPSS Inc. is releasing PASW Statistics 17 [LINK]. This is the new name for what used to be called SPSS Statistics, which was (as far as I know) ubiquitously known as SPSS. I'm not sure what prompted the name change, nor do I know what either SPSS or PASW stand for. SPSS Inc. has updated the interface, which now looks a lot like Matlab, except not as useful. Their promotional video really pushes the syntax highlighting and point and click to put in bookmarks/breakpoints or commands. These are features that other languages have had for many years. There are useful statistical features, like their nearest neighbor analysis tools, though it was hard to tell from the demo what the point of it is.

The price is $1,800. Yeah. This is an amazing price for software that is quite limited.

Especially when you compare it against the language R [news, official], which is free and more powerful, and still focuses on statistical analysis. The R language is based on an older language called S, and I think I remember learning that SPSS is also based on S. So these are two evolutionary lines from S, one free and open source and powerful and one very expensive, somewhat slick, and potentially powerful.

Both R and SPSS are limited to statistics (more or less). If you want to do something a little beyond statistical models or analysis, you'll still have to go to some other scripting language like Matlab, IDL, NCL, etc. And, in my opinion, if you have to know one of those anyway, there's really no reason to deal with R or SPSS, since all the same statistics can be calculated pretty easily in those more general languages. But, of course, there are large numbers of people who's work requires a bit of statistics but not much other computation, and I guess those are the people who use SPSS. So maybe there is a spectrum of users, some who use just SPSS, some who dabble in R, some who only use R, some who use R along with other software, and others who just use more general high-level languages. Still, at that price point, I can't believe anyone uses SPSS.

No comments: