Nie, a political science specializing in polling, previously founded SPSS in 1968, and managed to have an outstanding academic career while running the company for nearly 40 years. SPSS was acquired by IBM for $1.2 billion this fall. North Bridge and Intel Capital would doubtless settle for that kind of performance.
Nie replaces Richard Schultz, who becomes an adviser to the company. R is the statistical programming language and part of the GNU project.
Given its nature as an academic project under the GPL, Nie said all the right things on taking his new job.
“I am keenly aware of R’s roots in the academy, just like SPSS before it. We will continue our close relationship with the academic community, even as we meet the needs of commercial users, and we will expand our commitment to the R community in terms of products, services and resources.
Nie said his goal is to make R the "dominant analytics platform." Accomplishing that will mean doing a delicate dance between the needs of the market and the needs of academics devoted to open source. He has the right experience to do that job.