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Microsoft Makes Data-Analysis Tools Free

28/01/2015 by Sharon Shahzad


Microsoft Corp will offer free data-analysis tools and make them easier to use and set up, seeking to attract more business-software customers.

Power BI, which is used daily by Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, competes with software from Tableau Software Inc., International Business Machines Corp.’s Watson Analytics and Inc.’s Analytics Cloud. Tens of thousands of companies use it to analyze business operations and finances.

Up to now, Microsoft has been charging at least $33 a month for Power BI and requiring the latest version of Excel and a subscription to Office 365 online apps. Last week, Microsoft bought Revolution Analytics to bolster the business and is investing heavily and looking at both acquisitions and organic growth, said James Phillips, general manager for the product.

“We are tripling down on our investment,” Phillips said.

The market for business intelligence and analytics software is projected to expand to $21.4 billion in 2018 from $14.8 billion in 2014, according to IDC, as companies look for ways to easily gain insights for reams of data being collected from other business applications, websites, mobile devices and sensors. The new Power BI will be able to pull data from all of those sources.

“It is the cockpit through which business users can get analytics for all of the information they have, whatever kind of data and wherever it sits,” Phillips said. Microsoft was the No. 3 player by sales in the market in 2013, behind SAP AG and IBM, according to IDC. While Tableau ranked seventh, it’s the fastest growing and jumped 84 percent in 2013.

Real-Time Data

The new service can pull data from Microsoft products and a variety of other sources such as Salesforce, GitHub and Marketo Inc. to create dashboards that update in real time.

Power BI is also available from Tuesday in a public preview for Apple Inc.’s iPad and a web-based version. An iPhone app comes out next month and Android and Windows versions will follow some time in the first half. It takes about five minutes for a user to set up the new service, Phillips said. Microsoft will still offer a pay version of Power BI with additional corporate features.

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