Last week, my friend Brian Moran scooped me by telling his readers all about Gartner’s first quarter 2007 release of its "Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence Platforms." Despite his RDBMS-bias, Brian did a nice job of summarizing the Magic Quadrant concept and the way the report applies the Quadrant to current BI platforms. Check out Brian’s article Gartner's BI Report is Magically Interesting, InstantDoc ID 95190, or read the complete report.

While reading the report, I realized that the software vendors in the report look different when you view them through Gartner's BI lens. The report profiles vendors that focus much more on their BI software than Microsoft does. But Microsoft is faring better and better in the BI space by selling software (e.g., SQL Server, the 2007 Microsoft Office system) that does almost everything--and also includes world-class BI. So is Microsoft selling BI, or is the company still selling back-office servers and client-business software and making sure BI is "in there?" I think they're doing both depending on what the customer needs or which analysts they talk to.

The Gartner report states that Microsoft will be in the Leader section of its Magic Quadrant by 2012. That prediction sounds too far off given the company's market strategy and rapid rate of growth in the BI market. I'm not going to say I know more than the analysts, but they might not have factored into their Magic Quadrant equation the fact that many organizations have already deployed Microsoft BI software (e.g., SQL Server, the 2007 Office system) but haven't been using it for BI. The BI features in these products sell a lot of Microsoft software and Microsoft really works to include the best BI features in SQL Server and the 2007 Office system. But Microsoft is selling SQL Server and the 2007 Office system because they include a lot of different feature sets other than BI. I think that this broad-appeal approach will give Microsoft an increasing edge in the BI market.

Even if Microsoft always has the second- or third-best BI platform, if customers are already buying the software for other reasons, eventually it's also going to be the default BI software for those customers.

Author's Note: On Monday February 19, Microsoft released the much-anticipated SQL Server 2005 Service Pack 2 (SP2). To get familiar with SP2, check out my November 2006 commentary, One-year Anniversary for SQL Server 2005: CTP for SP2, InstantDoc ID 94377 and Microsoft's press release. SP2 adds a lot of new value to the Microsoft BI platform including the 2007 Office system integration and many other improvements and additions.