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Microsoft Brings Business Intelligence Tools to a Billion Screens

Or at least that’s the goal. And if anyone has a chance to achieve it in the near term, it’s Quentin Clark, the corporate Vice President of the company’s Data Platform Group, and his team.

Today the Redmond, Wash.-based company will announce the general availability of Power BI for Office 365, a cloud-based business intelligence (BI) service that gives everyday workers new way to work with data (big, fast and small) in the tools that they already know, namely, Excel and Office 365.

In other words, starting today, everyone can be a data analyst.

Why Are We So Bullish?

Forget that Power BI for Office 365 has sexy data modeling and visualization capabilities; beautiful and slick UIs; that it easily connects to data stored in Hadoop (HDFS), SQL Server, Microsoft Azure Blob Storage, SharePoint, OData, Windows Azure Marketplace, Windows Azure, HDInsight, Windows Azure Table Storage, Active Directory, Microsoft Exchange, Facebook, Windows Azure SQL Database, Access Database, Oracle, IBM DB2, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Sybase, Teradata, Web, CSV, XML, Text, Excel and Online Search; that it’s cloud-based and that its BI sites are optimized for BI projects in which users share data and reports; and that it empowers the everyday user to do all of this via Excel.

Everyone from high school students to stock brokers, to C-level execs, to researchers and even the heads of gardening clubs know how to use Microsoft Office tools. Is there a better way to achieve widespread adoption?

Built for a Mobile, Collaborative, Cloudy World

Power BI for Office 365 gives knowledge workers easy access to cloud-based tools for sharing reports and visualizations with their coworkers in real time and on mobile devices, and empowers them to interact with their data in new ways to gain faster insights.

Eron Kelly, General Manager of SQL Server Marketing says that it includes:

  • A Data Management Gateway which enables IT to build connections to on premises data sources and schedule refreshes so users can depend on having access to the most up to date reports at their desk or via a mobile device.
  • BI Sites — dedicated workspaces optimized for BI projects. This gives business users the ability to quickly find and share data and reports with colleagues and collaborate over BI results.
  • Real time access to BI Sites and data from anywhere at any time via a browser in HTML5 or through touch-optimized mobile applications for Windows 8, Windows RT, Surface and iPad devices that will provide touch optimized access. The iOS application will be available after the general availability of Power BI for Office 365 at a later date.
  • A natural language query experience called Q&A where users get to ask questions of their data and receive immediate answers in the form of an interactive table, chart or graph.

Power Map.png
A view of a sample dataset in Power Map, which allow users to create rich 3D geospatial visualizations in Excel.

A Disruption of the Best Kind

Most disruptive technologies are great for geeks who delight in tinkering with new technologies and enjoy the challenge of making something powerful and unknown work.

But the typical Jane and Joe would prefer not to struggle — they just want to do their jobs. So, introducing something to them that causes them to change the way that they work is disruptive in a bad way.

The beauty of Power BI for Office 365 is that it gives everyday users superpowers, right at their fingertips, without them needing to do anything that they’re not already comfortable with.

See It and You’ll Believe It

We’ve seen demos on how bike sharing vendors leverage big data and other technologies via Power BI for Office 365 — both the user experience and the ability to gain insight are amazing. Demo it at your company and don’t be surprised if people line up to check it out. 

 
 
 
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