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The Power BI Evolution: Improved Experience for the End User, but Also for Developers and ISVs

by Dann Anthony Maurno
Assistant Editor, MSDW

"5 seconds to sign up. 5 minutes to wow!" So read a banner that Microsoft hung up in 2014 when it began development of its Power BI service. It would be a SaaS-based business intelligence and analytics service to enable business users to directly connect with and gain insight from their business data.

Power BI was released to general availability in July after an intensive seven-month preview, and it was business-user friendly, as promised. "I think this is huge," wrote Seeking Alpha's Dallas Salazar, who observed that Microsoft wanted Power BI to be "the platform for business intelligence across both SMB and enterprise deployment."

If 2015 has been a critical year for Power BI, it reflects years of evolution. Power BI's progenitors are in Office Excel and in self-service reporting.

As far back as 2012, Microsoft introduced a tabular database model in SQL Server Analysis Services. No, the tabular model for BI doesn't have all the possibilities of a multi-dimensional model, but sometimes it's just the ticket for more rapid time-to-value; so Microsoft supports both models.

Another step toward Power BI, beginning in 2010 and then in 2013, was  the introduction of Microsoft Excel's new self-service reporting functionality in products like Power Pivot, Power View, Power Query, and Power Map.

Fast forward to the Power BI preview. With the introduction of Office 365 and Azure services, Power BI brought those Power tools online, extended the delivery to mobile devices by supporting HTML5, and included such services as the collaborative capabilities in Power BI Sites.

However much Microsoft has appeared to ...

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About Dann Anthony Maurno

Dann Anthony Maurno is a seasoned business journalist who began his career as International Marketing Manager with Lilly Software, then moved on as a freelancer to write for such prestigious clients as CFO Magazine; Compliance Week;Manufacturing Business Technology; Decision Resources, Inc.; The Economist Intelligence Unit; and corporate clients such as Iron Mountain, Microsoft and SAP. He is the co-author of Thin Air: How Wireless Technology Supports Lean Initiatives(CRC/Productivity Press, 2010).