Monday, July 8, 2013

Power BI for Office 365

Sorry, I'm a little late with putting up this announcement, but I was really busy today so this is the first chance I have had to put up my thoughts on the new Microsoft Office BI announcement from the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) in Houston today.

For those that have not heard, Microsoft just turned the whole BI (Business Intelligence) world on it's head! First there were a couple of preview products that now have new official names:

  • GeoFlow is now called Power Map, it is a mapping tool built into Excel 2013 that adds some great capabilities that were not previously available
  • Data Explorer is now called Power Query, it is a tool for discovering, accessing and combining data from multiple different sources (online, private or enterprise)
These new offerings go along with PowerPivot and Power View that are already built into Excel 2013. All of these tools together are now going to be called Power BI and they will all only be available in Excel for Office 365! With these being all offered together in Office 365 they are also going to make all of them HMTL5 compatible, meaning that any mobile device or browser will be able to use all of the functions! Yes, that does include the iPad and Android tablets! As long as the browser can properly process HTML5 it should work. Another interesting offering as part of Power BI is Q&A, which is a new natural language querying language that you will be able to use to create quick graphs and charts based on a question.

All of this is a big deal for those of us that work in the Business Intelligence business because it is a huge push into cloud and end-user/self-service BI by Microsoft. Previously a lot of the offerings have been in the Enterprise BI space with Reporting Services, Analysis Services and even the initial versions of PowerPivot and Power View in SharePoint. Now Microsoft is making a bold move to make the easy to use BI tools available in the tool that everyone in business uses on a daily basis, Excel. Now, it's not going to be in the same desktop version of Excel that most use, at first it will only be in Excel on Office 365. Nothing that I have read indicates that this will cost extra, and based on how Microsoft typically launches these kind of enhancements I don't think that it will cost extra for existing Office 365 subscribers. The only pieces of this that you can try today on your desktop versions of Excel 2013 are Power Query and Power Map (and of course PowerPivot and Power View that are already included), see the links to download the latest versions of both. You can provide your email to be notified when the preview is publicly available at this link.

Looking forward to being able to try all of this out as I just purchased an Office 365 subscription myself. I know that a lot of Enterprise customers will be very upset that all of these tools are only available in Office 365, but I think that this is a very smart move and I can't believe that it won't eventually end up in the desktop versions of Office at a point in the future.

Here is a link to Chris Webb's blog post from today about these announcements that also has some links to other posts for you to get even more details. As soon as the preview is available I will run it through it's paces and post about it here.