The Microsoft BI world is buzzing about Microsoft's recent announcement made at their annual Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) conference on Mobile BI and Power BI, a new Cloud Business Intelligence offering for Office 365 customers. Several BI product name changes to use the Power naming standards were also revealed.
Microsoft has expressed a "Cloud First and Cloud Only" development philosophy for a while now. With the latest BI news, we surely see it in action. The long awaited native Mobile BI app that was shown today will only be available for Office 365 customers at an undisclosed date later this summer. The first version of the native Mobile BI will be available on Windows 8 and Windows RT devices. A native Mobile BI app for iPad is also in the works. There was no news regarding future Android support for the new native Mobile BI app. For unsupported platforms, SharePoint browser-based options might be available.
The new native Mobile BI app will render hosted Office 365 Excel documents, PowerPivot, and Power View. Notably the Office 365 Excel Power View version Silverlight rendering will be replaced with HTML5. The native Mobile BI app will not have any offline capability for iPad. However, in the Windows 8 devices it is possible to save and view the Excel documents locally on the device. There was no mention of SQL Server Reporting Services or PerformancePoint content delivery within the new native Mobile BI app.
Power BI for Office 365 is a new self-service business intelligence (BI) solution delivered through Excel and Office 365. It will most likely be an option in the Office 365 Enterprise E Plans. No pricing was shared at this time. Power BI consists of base Excel, Power Pivot, Power Query (formerly project Data Explorer), Power View, and Power Map (formerly project GeoFlow). Excel is the only Power BI authoring tool. In the Microsoft related blogs, it is becoming quite clear that Excel is the go-to tool for all things Microsoft BI going forward. The technical Microsoft BI community has already started the transition to Excel authoring with Power Pivot, Power BI is the next phase in that process. Microsoft says that it is betting on Excel to provide basic BI for everyone and removing specialist tools from the equation. Although that may be welcome news for the non-technical Excel users, the technical Microsoft BI professionals have some mixed feelings on how this skill term change in their resumes might impact salaries.
The current Office 365 Enterprise E Plan offerings already support Excel with embedded Power Pivot and Power View for files up to 10 MB in size. There is presently no direct connectivity to on-premise data sources from Office 365. With the new Power BI, direct connectivity to on-premise data sources will be supported making it a more serious contender in the Cloud BI space. The public preview of Power BI for Office 365 will be available later this summer. Sign up for public preview notifications.
As part of the Office 365 Power BI solution branding, several product names have changed. Project Data Explorer is now called Power Query. Project GeoFlow is now called Power Maps and believe it or not, PowerPivot is now officially Power Pivot with a space. PowerPivot all one word is also still valid.
To wrap up, Microsoft Office 365 Mobile BI and Power BI is fantastic news for Microsoft Office 365 customers. On-premise customers will need to continue to look to the broader Microsoft third-party vendor ecosystem to get native Mobile BI applications. The "Cloud First and Cloud Only" development philosophy and the future of Microsoft BI being Excel-centric all seem to be coming to life in this latest round of news.