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Microsoft Previews Power BI for Office 365

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Posted July 9, 2013 By Pedro Hernandez     Feedback

A new Office 365 add-on leverages Microsoft's innovations in databases and cloud computing to bring insight-gathering business intelligence features to Office users.

Office as a business intelligence (BI) platform?

Describing Microsoft's new Power BI for Office 365 add-on as the "culmination of capabilities from SQL, Azure and Office 365," Julia White, general manager of the Microsoft Office Division, told Enterprise Apps Today that her company's enduring productivity software suite could well form the basis of a "very powerful BI platform." And key to delivering self-service business insights to Office users -- Excel pros in particular -- are a blend of existing and new features.

Power BI for Office 365 is anchored by four main components:

  • Power Query, formerly Data Explorer, allows users to access and search both public and in-house data from within Excel.
  • Power Map, formerly Geoflow, generates interactive 3D data visualizations comprised of geographic and temporal data.
  • Pover Pivot allows users to create and explore data models consisting of up to "10 million rows of data," said White.
  • Power View creates interactive charts, graphs and assorted other data visualizations.

Joining these features are new offerings that corral these capabilities to enable mobile collaboration and user-friendly data discovery. Power BI sites are collaborative workspaces that allow users to share data, insights and reports in a secure environment that continually stays current with on-premise data sources.

Also new is a natural language query engine, which allows IT shops to "customize to help their users search for specific datasets quickly and easily," the company blogged. HTML5 support gives users access to Power BI reports via a desktop or mobile browser. New Microsoft Power BI for Windows or iPad apps deliver insights to users of Windows 8 slates and Apple's tablets, respectively.

All told, Power BI for Office 365 addresses the BI needs of both users and IT, wrote Ari Schorr and Seayoung Rhee, Microsoft Office product marketing managers, in a blog post. "Not only will business customers be able to easily publish data sets and models to share with their colleagues, but their data will be accessible from virtually anywhere - on their desktop at work, over the Web at home, and on their mobile device while traveling," they stated.

"We will also be equipping IT with a set of management tools that enables them to safely leverage on-premise and external data sources within their organization's trusted environment and monitor employee collaboration around this data," added Schorr and Rhee.

A preview edition of Power BI for Office 365 is available now. Microsoft expects the product to enter into general availability later this summer.

Pedro Hernandez is a contributing editor at Enterprise Apps Today and Follow him on Twitter @ecoINSITE.

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