Did you ever see history portrayed as an old man with a wise brow and pulseless heart, waging all things in the balance of reason?
Is not rather the genius of history like an eternal, imploring maiden, full of fire, with a burning heart and flaming soul, humanly warm and humanly beautiful?
Training a telescope on one’s own belly button will only reveal lint. You like that? You go right on staring at it. I prefer looking at galaxies.
-- Sarah Hoyt
SAS and SPSS are tools, R is a programming language (of sorts), so it's mostly up to what you want to achieve.
Keep in mind that R isn't intended to be anything but a specialized language that never will be mainstream.
Also note that I have no personal experience with R, I've only read up on it a bit to see if we have any use for it.
We're having a couple of people here that uses SPSS. They're not happy about it. It suffers badly from featuritis while lacking usability and stability.
So yes, I'm interested in hearing your opinion on SAS.
I used it about 3 years ago... I worked with it for a about five years up to that point (versions 8 through 9.1).
1. Licensing was always an issue. They were stuck on some old mainframe idea of charging per processing core. If you tried to run it on a modern Linux or Windows box it became unaffordable without a long negotiations fight.
2. It requires a mind shift to realign with their programming practices. All the SQL you might know and love is backwards in the world of SAS, which processes everything more like a cursor. So while that is not necessarily bad, it is uncomfortable until you understand it.
3. The interpreted sas language, which was powerful and useful for its original design (creating massive reports) was terrible if you had a real-time transactional piece inputting or updating to the database. Everything runs best in batch. You will require a 2nd system for transactional input, and require a daily synchronization process at night.
4. The interpreted sas language itself was inconsistently implemented. The syntax around keywords and operators, even for simple things, could be different from one feature to the next, so you were always having to look up documentation (even after 5 years).
5. The compiled SCL language (which I think they were dropping support) had compiler issues. Even adding or removing white space could cause random errors (basically the grammar had bugs and was unreliable). You could spend days tracking down compiler problems in and around SCL.
6. Things that should be easy in other languages are difficult or expensive (additional feature, new license) in sas.
7. Documentation was regularly missing, and unlike more popular languages, I couldn't find what I needed on the web. Maybe that has changed with some of the newer social Q/A sites.
I have a lot more opinions, but those might be related to where I worked, and not the product itself.
Edit: I had a very bad job at the time (on call every other week, multiple calls per night, etc, etc). A bank called and offered a job where I would convert SAS into .NET... I refused because I was not taking another job dealing with SAS It was really that bad.