Microsoft Updates Power BI, Launches Free Version, Teases Power BI Pro

When it comes to industry buzzwords, several phrases have entered the collective consciousness of IT administrators over the years: Virtualization. BYOD. Cloud Computing. Big Data. Business Intelligence.

In nearly all cases, these phrases evolve from an early period that is characterized by lots of marketing sizzle but a woefully inadequate amount of technical and operational steak. All of the technologies I described above have gone through similar transitions, and Business Intelligence seems to have finally grown into something that has some meat on its bones.

Nothing demonstrates that progression more than Microsoft’s news this morning about its Power BI Business Intelligence service, which included a revamped Power BI offering that will be available as a free trial when it launches later this year. In addition, Microsoft announced PowerBI Pro, an enterprise-friendly version of Power BI that will boast more data capacity, Active Directory integration, and other features required by businesses and lather enterprises.

Microsoft Updates Power BI
The new Power BI will support data collection from a variety of sources, including Excel workbooks, SQL Server, GitHub, Marketo, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and other sources. (Image Credit: Jeff James)

In a Microsoft blog post announcing today’s news, Microsoft’s James Philips, General Manager for Data Experiences, stressed Microsoft’s attempts to bring Business Intelligence to a wider audience of users. “Today is an incredibly exciting day as we unveil the new Power BI – a service we believe will fundamentally transform the ‘business of business intelligence,'” Philips writes. “Power BI can help every company adopt a data culture with easy-to-use, accessible tools and innovative technology that lowers the barrier to entry, for all.”

As mentioned previously, the revamped Power BI offering will be available in two variants: a free version of Power BI intended for small businesses and trial users, and a new Power BI Pro version that offers more capability for larger businesses and enterprises. A free preview version of the new Power BI service is available now, while the existing Power BI service will get a price drop to $9.99 on February 1st.

Note: Continuing a trend that will likely frustrate Microsoft customers outside the United States, the current Power BI preview is only available for users in the US.

To support the launch of the new Power BI service, Microsoft also announced a new data acquisition tool dubbed the ‘Power BI Designer’, which allows users to more easily connect data sources to the new Power Bi service. And continuing the positive trend of offering robust support for Android and iOS devices, a downloadable preview of PowerBI for iPad is now available for download, with additional versions of the mobile application slated for release in the fall for Android, iPhone, and Windows mobile devices.

So will Microsoft’s new Power BI push convince you to embrace a “data culture” in your own organization? I’d love to hear what you think, so please add a comment to this blog post, or contact me on Twitter or Google+. You can also catch up on my posts in the Petri IT Knowledgebase forums.