New Office 2013 Licensing May Put PowerPivot, Power View Out of Reach for Some Microsoft Dynamics Users

February 20 2013

If the powers that be at Microsoft are looking for dessert, they'd do well not to ask Mark Polino, one of their own MVPs.

"Bad, bad, bad idea. Bad Microsoft, no cookie," Polino said in response to news that the company has decided take PowerPivot and Power View out of most versions of Office 2013.

Polino and other partners are not amused that the only way to have access to PowerPivot and Power View now is to buy the Pro Plus edition of Office 2013 - Professional is just not enough, according to this blog post.  And to complicate matters, upgrading to Pro Plus is only available through volume licensing or when bundled with specific Office 365 subscriptions.

The post is written by Rob Collie, one of the founding engineers behind PowerPivot at Microsoft during his 14 year career in Redmond, and formerly CTO at Pivotstream LLC.

But Polino, a proponent of using Excel and PowerPivot with Microsoft Dynamics GP, is not taking this decision lying down.

"With the MS MVP Summit coming up...perhaps we can make it abundantly clear that this was a bad idea," he wrote.

Collie wrote that he's been getting a ton of questions about this issue - in email, twitter, on forums, etc.

"The questions all go something like this: ‘Hey Rob ,I just bought Office 2013, went to enable PowerPivot, and it's not there! It was supposed to be included in 2013 right?'

It's a fair question, of course. And yes, my original expectation was precisely that - it would be in 2013 for everyone."

Collie said the question is: Why would Microsoft do such a thing? He speculates that the short answer is because when people upgrade to Office 2013, Microsoft wants them to spend more money and buy the Pro Plus version. But as commentators noted, Microsoft could be shooting itself in the foot.

"So then if you want PowerPivot, you stick with 2010 and get it free! Hrrrmmmm that doesn't seem like a good way to sell 2013," said one commenter.

Commenter Carsten B. agreed. "So much for BI for the masses, I guess," said Carsten B. "Large corporation have BI solutions anyway, but small companies suddenly had access to a great BI solution, and without SharePoint, you had to rely on everybody having the newest version of Office. Without PowerPivot, we would still be using a mix of Excel 2003, OpenOffice and a very old Cognos Solution. I personally spend two years learning Dax and promoting Excel in our company, but without PowerPivot, instead of everybody upgrading to Excel 2013 we will continue using older version and finally wave goodbye to MS Office."

Collie admitted that no one at Microsoft has confirmed any of his speculations about the hows and whys of his decisions but he puts forward a logical analysis of the "blurry" line in terms of use cases and requirements that separates pure Excel from BI.  He writes:

"The line between 'BI' and 'Excel' has always been awkward and artificial.  Accepting that line to be 'blurry,' and building tools that make us more productive on the boundary, is the smartest thing MS has done in a long time.  We can credit the SQL team for this - ironic perhaps, but true."

The Dynamics ERP community has been looking to PowerPivot and (perhaps to a lesser extent) Power View for some time as a go-to analytics tool. It helps to solve the 'many versions of the truth' conundrum that Excel users can fall into, as Dynamics AX MVP Brandon George has explained.  With the introduction of OData web services in Dynamics NAV 2013, PowerPivot is expected to be a key tool for building new reports, as BI expert Cristian Nicola will discuss in an upcoming webcast on February 28.

And the Dynamics AX product team has promoted its commitment to staying up to date on both PowerPivot and Power View as part of its AX 2012 release strategy. As we reported last year as the AX 2012 R2 release neared:

Data warehousing capabilities with AX 2012 are tightly linked to Power View (a.k.a, Project Crescent), according to Dynamics AX general manager Christian Pedersen, because the cube designs used by Crescent should be a key piece of the data warehousing puzzle. "We will be providing out of the box cubes, but knowing how it goes with data modeling and building new cubes, we'll have the PowerPivot link to Excel as well," he says. "But it is really the underlying cubes infrastructure that will be used for Crescent as well.  So it is a good example of how AX, Excel, PowerBuilder, and SQL will work closely on these things."

A Microsoft Office spokesperson gave us the following statement on the matter:

"People can get PowerPivot and Power View with one of the following options:

  1. Office Professional Plus 2013 via Open, Select or Enterprise Agreement;
  2. Excel 2013 standalone via Open or Select;
  3. Office 365 ProPlus via Office 365 when it becomes available 2/27/13.

"After introducing these capabilities broadly in our 2010 releases, we found that businesses were the primary users of these advanced business intelligence features in Excel, so we’ve made them available via the licensing programs businesses already use. Businesses can get these capabilities with a minimum of 5 Office licenses via most licensing programs or with an individual Office 365 ProPlus subscription. The combination of PowerPivot, Power View, and Quick Explore together creates a compelling, comprehensive business intelligence resource for our commercial customers."

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About Linda Rosencrance

Linda Rosencrance is a freelance writer/editor in the Boston area. Rosencrance has over 25 years experience as an reporter/investigative reporter, writing for many newspapers in the metropolitan Boston area. Rosencrance has been writing about information technology for the past 16 years.

She has covered a variety of IT subjects, including Microsoft Dynamics, mobile security issues such as data loss prevention, network management, secure mobile app development, privacy, cloud computing, BI, big data, analytics, HR, CRM, ERP, and enterprise IT.

Rosencrance is the author of six true crime books for Kensington Publishing Corp.

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