Musing about Microsoft’s Acquisition of Datazen and Power BI

DataZenMicrosoft just announced that they have bought Datazen, a mobile data visualization product. While I have no idea what Microsoft is actually going to do with the Datazen product, I couldn’t resist the chance to speculate about it. In earlier posts, I’ve talked about the conversion of what Power BI was before Power BI Designer was released and what Power BI is now. Since then I have been working on creating new Power BI dashboards. The process left me, shall we say underwhelmed? The tools in Excel allow for much greater flexibility and options than new Power BI. Now to be fair, new Power BI was released December 18th, 2014, so it’s not possible for it to contain all of the rich feature and functionality that the Excel tools do. That’s all well and good, but what it won’t do led to some frustration. If the new Power BI was the way that Microsoft was going to climb up to the top of the Gartner BI visualization charts, I didn’t think it was going to do the trick.

Anyone Still Using Lotus 123?

The one thing that I kept on thinking about when looking at the new Power BI is, there has to be a part of the plan I’m not getting. I didn’t see how this product would have the feature and functionality needed by the time the reviews came around again next February. In looking back in time, I couldn’t help of thinking of a time when Microsoft was battling it out in another space, spreadsheets. When Excel first came out, the big leader in the space was Lotus 123, which has since disappeared. (If you are running it where you work, please post comment to let me know, because I think Lotus 123 is gone.) The reason for Microsoft’s dominance in spreadsheets was Excel got a lot better at providing spreadsheets the way people wanted to use them.

Datazen, Hopefully Not the Next ProClarity

Microsoft’s purchase of Datazen looks to be a way to leverage a product with some really cool features to enhance the capabilities of Power BI. Datazen is a mobile application, but they have some good looking visualizations which hopefully could be incorporated into Power BI. There’s only one thing that may be a reason for pause. In 2006, Microsoft made another acquisition. They bought a company called ProClarity. ProClarity had some really neat features, some of which were included in Performance Point, but for the most part, the application was killed. I hope that history is not a guide in the purchase of Datazen, because Datazen has some great visualizations which could really help the new Power BI, and it would be good if Microsoft could figure out how to merge the features into the new Power BI to help improve the their position in the data visualization marketplace. I look forward to seeing how the two companies merge the Datazen features into Microsoft’s data visualization components.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

3 comments on “Musing about Microsoft’s Acquisition of Datazen and Power BI

  1. mjphilli

    Ginger – thanks a million for your continued support and willingness to share your thoughts and experiences with others! Really appreciate it. Your question about the readiness of Power BI Designer versus the traditional Excel Power * experiences is a fair one. Ultimately you should judge us on what we deliver to the market. But please hang in there with us. I assure you that you’re going to see Power BI Designer rapidly catch and the even more rapidly surpass in a very big way what we’ve been able to achieve inside Excel. We’re about to push out this month’s update which adds DAX measures and a host of new features. And you’ll see that happen every month. We’re in the middle of a fundamental shift in some of the underlying technology, but we’ll be through that in the next couple of months. From there the sky is the limit. We’re deadly serious about maturing this and FAST. Hold us to it.

    James Phillips
    CVP, Microsoft Power BI

    1. Ginger Grant

      James – Thank you so much for your feedback on Microsoft’s plans for Power BI Designer. Using history is a guide, I believe that Microsoft definitely will catch up in the data visualization space, and I hope DataZen helps in that goal. I look forward to using the new DAX measures which you mentioned as it is features like that which I missed when using Designer. I plan on continuing to use Power BI Designer and look forward to being able to update Microsoft’s progress with the tool in an upcoming post.

    2. Dandy Weyn (@ilikesql)

      hi James,

      Thanks for the insights. One of the struggle points I see is how to currently position or promote a Power BI offering for potential customers. It’s apparent that the features and capabilities in terms of dashboarding and visualizations in Power BI Designer preview exceed the current capabilities of Power View in Excel, but are not a close match yet to the Power Query features as part of the Excel add-on (despite more data connectivity such as Google Analytics). Tableau 9.0 in terms of self-service ETL and data mashing doesn’t even come close to the capabilities exposed through Power Query and the M language. Bringing in DAX hopefully also goes hand in hand with the capabilities of being able to enhance the model for Q&A. Would be great if there is more detail on roadmap and what’s coming so we can convince customers to get onboard now, knowing that the investments they make won’t be lost over the next couple of months.

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