Power BI’s First Year in Review

Since 2014 was the year Power BI was released, a lot of changes have been made, that I thought it might be interesting to review. For all who saw this headline and thought, Well technically Power BI is not really a year old because it was released in February, allow me some creative license to perform some rounding. Listing the number of changes released points to the beauty of the iterative release schedule which allow changes to be rolled out whenever Microsoft is done with them, rather than at fixed intervals, which means changes happen often. There were more updates made than I listed here, but space and TL:DR limited me, and so only selected items are reviewed.


January 6th – Microsoft releases pricing info for Power BI.  This is one of the final steps taken before the product was released

February 10th – Power BI is released. Since Power BI was revealed and available for preview on July 8, 2013, the release wasn’t a surprise.  Having a released product meant that the previews people had been playing with for free for a while would be going away soon.

March 3rd – There were a lot of little updates made in this release.  The one that I thought was had the most impact were the changes made to HTML5 rendering, which got a lot better.  Q&A features were also notably improved. Microsoft touted the new connectivity to Business Objects, for those people who wanted it, that is probably quite useful.

April 1st –SQL Server 2014 is released.  I realize that this isn’t directly related to Power BI, but the products are designed to work together, which is why I selected to include it.

April 18th – Microsoft announced that they were not going to remove Power Map from Excel in Office 365. In January, when Microsoft announced  that Power BI was going to be released, they also made this announcement “On May 30, 2014 if you have the Power Map Preview installed, it will no longer work in any non-Office 365 subscription version of Excel”.  As you might guess, this announcement made people unhappy, and they complained to Microsoft. These complaints were heard and the policy was changed.  There is a perception sometimes that when you complain, no one hears you.  At least this one time, complaints were heard and changes made.  Here’s the caveat for Power Map for Excel users, you don’t get any of the new Power Map upgrades. The cool features added later can only be used by Power BI users, like the new feature of the ability adding sound, a new Power Map feature in this release.

May 8th – Forecasting in PowerView was demo’d at the PASS Business Analytics Conference.  Forecasting added the Predictive Analytics to Power BI.  What was nice about the new algorithm, not data mining, is that it also included Hindcasting to validate the predictions.  More information on this feature can be found here.

May 29th  – The Power Query Updates here made it easier to Query information from the Azure Marketplace as well as remember what you queried recently, which was most helpful. Q&A was also updated to have a wider number of natural language queries too.

August 19th – Skipping over the summer release stuff, the data source changes included in this release were really cool.  Now you can schedule a refreshes from a number new sources.

September 9th – Custom maps were added in this update.  Now instead of maps being limited to the world, you can map inside of buildings.  I know of a casino operation that really wanted this earlier.  This is another cool feature not available to Office 365 excel users.

September 30th – The Power Query update can be summarized as Seeking and Spamming. Finally Microsoft made it possible to not get updates when you didn’t want them.  The data source settings can now be sorted and searched, which is really helpful when you have a lot of sources.

October 13th  – Microsoft is making nice with the juggernaut SalesForce by adding Power Query support for data within it  Since it seems SalesForce is everywhere, being able to query the data will definitely be handy.

November 13th – Updates to Power Map mean that you can now play individual scenes instead of playing through the entire tour. This is a most helpful feature when editing a PowerMap.

December 19th – New Dashboards and Native PowerBI for the iPad.  Microsoft now has an Apple app so that you can see your data visualizations on Apple, just in case you wanted to do that.  While still in their infancy, the new dashboards are the first break PowerBI is really making from Excel as you don’t need it anymore to create visualizations.  I wrote about that new feature here.

New Year, New Updates

Looking back at everything that has happened this year, I can only imaging what next year will bring.  Given the current preview release status of the new dashboarding feature, it would be logical to assume that more changes will be added to it.  To be sure, when new things are added to PowerBI, you will be able to find more about them here.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur

Power Map – No longer only BI

Microsoft did something interesting with the licensing of Power Map, they changed their mind. Power Map was original released as part of Power BI a preview tool. Shortly after Power BI went live on February 10, Microsoft made this announcement. “On May 30, 2014 if you have the Power Map Preview installed, it will no longer work in any non-Office 365 subscription version of Excel.” You won’t see that text on their site, but I had it on a slide for a previous presentation I did on Power BI.  Time to update the slide as things have changed since SQL Saturday Detroit, and I have updated my presentation for Power BI SQL Server Saturday Denver.

Do you have a License for That?

The Preview for PowerMap was originally available for Excel 2013 and Excel 2013 for Office 365. Microsoft’s message that came out after PowerBI was officially released is translatable to unless you have Office 265 and pay for a Power BI license, no Power Map for you. Well, that folded like a bad poker hand. If you look now at the Power Map website it says this (I’ll quote it here to make sure I have the text if it changes again)

“If you have any subscription for Microsoft Office 365, you have access to Power Map for Excel as part of the self-service business intelligence tools.” Yea!  But what if you have Excel 2013 on prem? You can use the preview forever. What does that mean? No new features but Power Map won’t stop working. Here’s what the website says exactly “Although feature and performance enhancements for Power Map will continue to be released for the Office 365 subscription plans, there are currently no future plans to update the downloadable Power Map Preview.” Now you don’t have to have purchased the separate license for Power BI to get Power Maps. You can be all Powerful with Office 365 or Office 2013. (Note to Microsoft:Does everything have to have Power in Excel? I am starting to channel the Wizard of OZ)

New Power Map Features

On September 9th, 2014, Microsoft just released some new features for Power Map which they do about once a month. One of the cool new features is the ability to add your own maps for things like the inside of buildings. If you want that to work, you might need to check your configuration. I’ve included a copy of my Com Add-In Screen. If you can’t remember how to pull this up, check my previous post


You will notice there are two checkboxes here for Power Map on the COM Add-In Window because I was using the preview and Office 365 automatically gave me the non-Preview version of Power Map when I got an automatic Office 365 update. To get the cool new stuff, I must have the Microsoft Power Map for Excel checked, not the Preview one. If you didn’t pay for Power BI with Office 365, you won’t be able to use the new features Microsoft adds in every month.

Now if you have Excel 2013 or Office 365 and didn’t download the preview yet, you still can right here. Microsoft now calls the Power Map Preview an Unsupported Add-In, but all of the original features still work.

Mapping in Excel

If you have Excel 2013 or Office 365 and you don’t have Power Map Preview installed, you can still use mapping tools for Excel reports. How is this possible? By inserting maps into Power View.  The maps inside of Power View are very interactive, and unlike Power Maps, you can encode these reports as HTML 5 and display them on your phone or tablet.

Yours Always

Ginger Grant

Data aficionado et SQL Raconteur