[R] Size of R user base

(Ted Harding) Ted.Harding at nessie.mcc.ac.uk
Mon Apr 19 22:22:51 CEST 2004

A very intriguing commentary!
Some comments to "modulate" these estimates.

On 19-Apr-04 Kevin S. Van Horn wrote:
> 1. It appears that there are about 100,000 S-PLUS users.
> Rationale: According to Insightful's 2002 Annual Report, over 100,000 
> people use Insightful software; since license revenues from S-PLUS and 
> add-on modules accounted for nearly all of their license revenues in 
> 2002, and their other products are much more costly than S-PLUS, it 
> seems that the great majority of users of Insightful software are
> users.
> Conclusion: S-PLUS costs $3500 (Windows) or $4500 (Linux/Unix) for an 
> individual copy; R is free.  This suggests that there may be more R 
> users than S-PLUS users, which suggests > 100,000 R users.
> Does anyone has any other information that would give some notion as to
> the RELATIVE numbers of R and S-PLUS users?

There is one major factor in here. The number of Windows users
in the world is much higher than the number of Unix/Linux users,
especially in the corporate sector. Organisations whose work
needs R/S-PLUS and whose IT is Windows based will (I believe)
mostly go for S-PLUS (I could expand in my reasons for believing
this). Therefore I suspect that in the 2-way table

          Windows  Unix/Linux
S-PLUS      N11       N12

R           N21       N22

you are likely to find that N11/N21 >> N12/N22.
Certainly N11+N21 > N12+N22. This tends to imply N11+N12 > N12+N22.
The relative cost of S-PLUS vs R is not likely to be a factor in
the choice, for most corporate users. Therefore I would lower your
estimate, here, of R usage quite a bit (though I can't guess by
how much).

> 2. At least one R book has achieved sales of just over 5,000 copies. 
> (I could not find sales figures for other R books, as it appears that 
> publishers are closed-mouthed about such figures.  And no, I can't 
> reveal which particular book this was, so don't ask.)
> Conclusion:  Very few books sell to more than 12% of the population of 
> potential buyers, and most books have a far lower penetration -- 1% or 
> less is not uncommon.  A 12% penetration for the book in question 
> implies 42,000 R users; a more reasonable 5% penetration implies
> 100,000 
> users.  A low 1% penetration implies 500,000 users.

Comment: More R users are likely to buy a book on R than S-PLUS
users are likely to buy a book on S-PLUS. S-PLUS users who do
buy a book may in fact buy a book on R rather than S-PLUS, if
that book is well known to be good. (I'm assuming that the
"R book" you refer to is R-specific rather than written for
both R and S-PLUS or for "S-PLUS with R variations"; otherwise
you have to take off the S-PLUS-only purchasers)

> 3. There are a total of 3225 unique subscribers to the three R mailing 
> lists.

I think this may be the most directly informative piece of data
(though still on the soft side). People who use R are likely to
become aware of the mailing lists, and to subscribe. So I suspect
that this number exceeds say 20-40% of R users (you can't be precise
with this sort of intuitive guess). This would suggest 7000-16000 R
You might perhaps double or triple this to allow for groups where
one member of the group subscribes as the "spokesman" for the rest.
Maybe also inflate a bit to allow for R users who don't think
they need to consult mailing lists (who are they??).


E-Mail: (Ted Harding) <Ted.Harding at nessie.mcc.ac.uk>
Fax-to-email: +44 (0)870 167 1972
Date: 19-Apr-04                                       Time: 21:22:51
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