Is just it me or does anyone else keep on hearing that stupid Power song by the one hit wonder Snap whenever they are hear about Power BI? Now if you cannot recall this catchy tune this should send it rattling around into your skull http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_BRv9wGf5pk. It’s the new Rick Roll.
Is it possible that adding the word Power is supposed to be a subliminal message to people who’s lives are spinning out of control and have been sapped of their personal essence? But then again I could be wrong. You add data by Power Query, then manipulate it in Power Pivot, then make a Power View and add a Power Map. And naturally this task should never be attempted at home and only by Professional Power Users. I feel that by using it I have increased my power exponentially by a factor of 365 to complete this task. On the other hand, I could be totally wrong. Power BI is available as a preview edition, which means for now anyone can load it up as it has not been officially released. Still though the more time I spend with it the more I generally like it.
Although you could argue that it might have made more sense for Microsoft to build a reporting app than bloating up Excel, it’s perfectly understandable why they did it. Based upon what I have seen, there is a real reticence on the part of the IT staff to install anything else on a computer. Given the things end users wish to install on their computers, one could hardly blame the IT staff. The idea of self-service BI is for business users to use it, and Excel has been the staple of ad-hoc data storage and analysis for decades. Since Power BI is a series of task specific bolt-on accessories to the ubiquitous Microsoft spreadsheet, using it isn’t the most intuitive thing in the world either. It is sort of awkward to click here and there to get the tool to work, but once you figure that out, in the end it turns out to be a cool tool. It has changed quite a bit since it was first introduced. Microsoft’s blog from July includes a walk through of Yelp data which will no longer works as written because the expand feature has been removed.
Power BI really makes Microsoft competitive in an area where they had nothing but a gaping hole which their competitors, namely Tableau, have driven their truck through. In less than two years they have come up with an application which provides self-service BI to business users, uses in-memory analytics, can be viewed securely on the web, and can be viewed on tablets and phones. Since Microsoft is slowly but surely getting rid of Silverlight to follow everyone else to HTML5, you can view your Power BI reports on whatever phone and tablet you happen to own. Ok, the caveat is that the application that was created for the Microsoft phone is better, but you are not shut out if you have an iPhone or Samsung tablet either.
From a marketing perspective, Microsoft has provided perfectly sensible reason that you might want to actually get Office365. Personally Power BI was the reason that I decided to move to Office 365. Let’s face it, for most people Office 365 was just another way to load up office. The whole cloud thing was not really much of a selling feature for end users who didn’t want to use a skydrive when they could easily use a hard drive ensuring your data isn’t spread all over the known universe. Hosting SharePoint in the cloud provides a feature people might actually use. There is an argument to be made as to whether or not it is any less annoying to administer SharePoint via a cloud rather than locally, but it is one less server IT needs to monitor. The price isn’t terrible. Here’s the info which Microsoft has released on pricing http://www.microsoft.com/en-us/powerBI/pricing.aspx#fbid=5EP_a34ZHLQ
I am giving a talk at SQL Saturday in Albuquerque on Power BI where I will delve the technical features of Power BI in greater detail.
Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur