I am old. I remember punched cards, COBOL, dumb terminals and having to walk over to the computer center and load tapes on to the drive if I wanted to use large data sets – large back then meaning 100,000 records or more with a few hundred variables. We thought that was pretty big data.
So …. when I went to the Western Users of SAS Software conference this year, I was struck by the fact that I seemed to be about the median age. There were A LOT of people older than me. Most of the younger people were the student scholarship winners and junior professional award winners.
This does not bode well for SAS, and it made me a bit sad, because as I said in a prior post, the model selection procedures were cool, from a statistical perspective, there is a lot of good stuff from SAS.
I used to go to the user group meetings and they would give you a book (yes, on paper, children) that had macros written by SAS users. I think that was the first time I saw the parallel analysis criterion code for factor analysis – a macro I used in my dissertation and in one of the first articles I published.
Tonight, I was looking for a way to do power analysis for a repeated measures ANCOVA and I could not find it for SAS, neither using PROC POWER, PROC GLMPOWER nor any user-written macros. It may exist – I looked several other places as well, found a paper on how to do it using SPSS syntax (although that code did not work!) and someone else wrote a procedure in R that I didn’t try.
SAS used to be the place for the cutting edge. What happened?
One reason is that everyone used to use either SAS or SPSS at universities and that isn’t the case any more. A second is that SAS is really expensive, so universities who do not have a license aren’t inclined to get one.
This all sounds like the death knell is tolling for SAS and it is just a matter of time until it follows COBOL and Blackberry as one of those things that people ask, “Why are you using that?”
I think there is still some possibility for SAS to turn things around – although whether they will or not remains to be seen.
The smartest thing SAS has done in years is to come out with SAS On-Demand for Academics. This makes SAS free for university students and professors. It’s perfect for on-line courses because you can upload your data to the class website and all of your students can access it.
Now the next thing SAS needs to do is start making that available at a reasonable cost once students graduate. Instead of charging them thousands of dollars a year for a license, they can charge $50 a month like Adobe does for its design package or Google does for its apps. (Yes, Google apps for business are cheaper than $50 a month but they don’t do all that much.)
New graduates aren’t going to pay several thousand dollars for a license because they don’t have that kind of money. They might shell out $50 plus occasional extra charges to access some high performance computing capabilities.
SAS already has millions of lines of code and tens of thousands of pages of good documentation. It’s some good stuff.
Think about this – years ago, the Mac was considered a better computer than Windows but over-priced. Many people thought Apple would go under. Instead, they came out with the iPhone and the iPad and they are wildly successful.
The Web Editor and other cloud products could become the SAS version of the iPad.
Here’s to hoping they don’t fuck it up.