Re: [R] History of R

From: Earl F. Glynn <>
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2008 14:02:13 -0600

"Kathy Gerber" <> wrote in message
> Spencer,
> I believe this is the first mention of pricing that I've seen.

> Several additional points have been made about the comparison of R to
> Octave, some off list.

> -- Matlab did not alienate developers all that much, so people were not
> driven as much to Octave.

> -- Matlab users often switch to R rather than Octave.

One big reason we use R now was what we considered to be unreasonable MatLab licensing terms from the Mathworks. We have mostly biologists here who usually have an intermittent need for analysis tools using MatLab -- they just don't need a dedicated MatLab license per person for analysis, yet that is what the Mathworks expected us to buy. As a new and growing research institute, for several years it didn't make financial sense to have a single shared network MatLab license that cost the same as four named-user licenses when most of our users were biologists. In our opinion, the Mathworks wanted us to pay too much for too little use of their product due to their license limitations.
Even though we are a 501(c)3 non-profit research institute, the Mathworks refused to give us academic pricing (and still does). About four years ago MatLab refused to allow one of our postdocs and me to share a single license for casual use. I asked "what is your pricing model"? I asked why the Mathworks cared if a post doc used MatLab for two hours a month and I used MatLab for two hours a month using the same license. So, frustrated by the licensing inflexibility of the Mathworks at that time (four years ago), I abandoned MatLab and re-wrote the MatLab project I was working on in R, and do most analysis now in R. I avoid using MatLab as much as possible and explain licensing terms to new students and post-docs as we start new projects when MatLab is proposed as a solution.

Over the years, the Mathworks has been inconsistent on whether a single license on a PC can be shared. About a year ago, we were told it was OK to share such a license on a walk-up workstation, but who wants to walk to another floor or building to use MatLab? The networking option is quite expensive, especially to support a number of MatLab toolboxes. Late last year we finally did have enough MatLab use to warrant the purchase of a network license, but only for a small number of toolboxes. MatLab is rarely my tool of choice when R is such a good alternative.

Non-academic pricing from the Mathworks for a non-profit research environment, combined with the large number of R and Bioconductor packages that solved problems of interest (mostly microarray analysis) resulted in much more use of R here than MatLab.

Nearly six years ago, SAS also refused to give us academic pricing because we were not a degree granting institution. About a year ago, SAS finally granted us academic pricing, but most of the analysis momentum was already for the use of R/Bioconductor.

We casually looked at Octave a few times, but there was no strong attraction to use it. Some early tests showed no problems with computations using Octave, but showed some annoying issues with graphics that we didn't want to deal with.


Earl F. Glynn
Scientific Programmer
Stowers Institute for Medical Research mailing list PLEASE do read the posting guide and provide commented, minimal, self-contained, reproducible code. Received on Tue 19 Feb 2008 - 20:13:56 GMT

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