Microsoft introduced on Tuesday Power BI for Office 365, a new self-service business intelligence (BI) offering that enables businesses to gain insights from their data "in powerful new ways" within Excel and Office 365. Users can easily search, discover and access data within and outside an organization, and shape and transform data with a few simple clicks. They can even analyze and create interactive visualizations to share and collaborate from nearly any device.
"Power BI for Office 365 empowers customers with a powerful platform to address several business needs, including, delivering self-service BI solutions to everyday business users natively within the environment they're already familiar with -- Excel and enabling collaboration and accessibility by putting BI in the cloud through Office 365," said Ari Scharr and Seayoung Rhee, product marketing managers, Microsoft's Office Division. "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."
In Excel 2013, Microsoft is introducing Power Query, formerly Data Explorer, for data search and discovery. Power Pivot will remain the same for analyzing and modeling data, but for visualizing and exploring data, the team has added Power View and Power Map, formerly project codename "GeoFlow". Power View allows customers to manipulate data and compile it into charts, graphs and other visual means. Power Map is a 3D data visualization tool for mapping, exploring and interacting with geographic and temporal data.
"While all of these tools enable great self-service BI, asking business customers to work within a BI silo significantly decreases the potential value of their data to the entire organization," they said. "That's why we've made all of these Excel capabilities available in the cloud with Office 365, so customers can share and access their BI reports and models across the desktop, Web and devices, all in a trusted, managed environment."
To share insights and help customers get answers quickly, the team has created BI Sites which include a natural language query engine and a Data Management Gateway. This allows customers to create workspaces in Office 365 to share worksheets with colleagues, collaborate over insights and results, and quickly find data and reports. Power BI for Office 365 also allows users to become their own data stewards, as they can grant access to their published data sets based on their colleague's credentials.
"To enable customers to stay connected to their data from virtually anywhere they are, we've created a connected BI experience," they said. "BI users can access and receive live updates on their reports through their browser with HTML5 or through a mobile application designed for their tablet or touch-enabled device, either Microsoft Power BI for Windows or Microsoft Power BI for iPad."
The full description can be accessed on Microsoft's Office Blog here, and briefly on TechNet here. Office 365 users can learn more about Power BI, register for a preview and download Excel add-ins here.
Kevin Parrish is a contributing editor and writer for Tom's Hardware,Tom's Games and Tom's Guide. He's also a graphic artist, CAD operator and network administrator.
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