I feel sad that IBM has swallowed up SPSS. It feels like the absolute total end of an era.
I used to work for SPSS, and before that for Quantime, which SPSS took over. Both companies had their different qualities: where Quantime was quirky and Bohemian with faded hippy edges, SPSS was organized, with clean-cut suits, but still pleasantly relaxed. SPSS did, in my view, do a good job of ironing out the less attractive wrinkles within Quantime, but with hindsight something intangible was lost, or possibly diluted. Was it passion?
Quantime, the developer of Quantum and Quancept, was an amazingly successful organization both in terms of cornering the market and making a profit. Looking back, I think at least part of the reason for this was its quirky, slightly disorganized nature. It was the type of place were rules were for bending, where the parties were memorable and where customers who bought beer for the right developers got their favourite bugs fixed a bit faster. SPSS added a slicker system of management and brought new order to anything that was a little unpolished. I do not have any personal knowledge of IBM, but I assume its culture is less relaxed than SPSS and pretty much at the opposite end of the spectrum from Quantime.
A certain amount of chaos obviously did Quantime no harm – the bottom line was good – although sometimes the quirkiness was hard to live with. That was especially true when we were trying to write its always well-received and much plagiarized newsletter (see an example above) into the wee small hours because of a spur-of-the-moment decision to get one out in a week. However, it is an amazing endorsement to the endeavours of everyone in the old company that, 30 years on, Quantum is still a market leading product in its class.
I really cannot imagine what such a monolith as IBM would want with such niche products as Quantum. Wouldn’t it be great if IBM could sell off SPSS’ market research software interests to a smaller organization that could reinvent a big chunk of Quantime’s passion, and perhaps a small dose of SPSS’ management acumen. Is there anyone out there who fits the bill? If so, please call IBM!