I recently had the chance to discuss the open source 'R' programming language with Revolution Analytics CEO and founder Norman Nie.
Revolution is the commercial organization supporting the open-source project and contains a number of technology bigwigs, including Nie himself, who was the co-founder of analytics firm SPSS and led the company as CEO/chairman of the board for more than 40 years before selling it to IBM in 2009 for $1.2 billion. The company has enjoyed some outstanding press mentions, despite the fact that the product appeals to a very specific user base.R is similar to other programming languages like Java and C, but holds particular appeal for statisticians because it contains a number of built-in mechanisms for organizing data, running calculations, and creating graphical representations of data sets.
Considering predictive analytics is not on the tip of most people's tongues, I set up a Q&A with Nie to get a basic overview of why R matters and how Revolution plans to commercialize the software. The edited transcript follows:
Q: What exactly is 'R' and why does it matter? Nie: Simply put, R is the most powerful statistical computing language on the planet; there is no statistical equation that cannot be calculated in R. This gives it unparalleled ability to sort through data sets and do predictive modeling. This is particularly relevant in today's business intelligence environment, given the explosion of big data and the increased emphasis organizations are putting on advanced analytic techniques.
R is also open source, so there is a community that is over 2 million users strong behind it. It is particularly well entrenched in academia, where today's university students (and tomorrow's future statisticians) are being trained almost exclusively on R. … Read more