This week Microsoft announced the availability of Power BI Dashboards and the browser-based dashboard designer.  What is it and why is it important?  The most significant thing about it is that report and dashboard users do not need to have Excel 2013 ProPlus edition or an Office 365 subscription to use Power BI.  This is very good news as it opens these amazing capabilities up to a much wider audience; those who work for companies that don’t have Office 2013 ProPlus or who are not using Office 365 ProPlus.  Power BI updates and new features are being released at a very fast pace and there is much to consider.  The definition of “Power BI” and Microsoft’s larger Business Intelligence and data analytics offering continues to evolve. First, exactly what’s new and recently available?

  • Web-based Power BI dashboard designer
  • iOS Power BI app
  • New REST APIs

In August, I posted this about what Power BI was and how to start using it.  At that time and up until this week, Power BI required an Office 365 Enterprise (E3) account with an additional subscription option.  The new dashboard designer preview is currently free and doesn’t require an Office 365 subscription.  It’s essentially Power View, Q&A, a new tiles interface with mini Power View visuals and connectivity management options.  Data sources can include a variety of online sources in addition to your own data in a Power Pivot model you author using Excel and then upload to a OneDrive folder or an Office 365 tenant.  You can also connect Power View reports and dashboards to an on-premises SSAS tabular model.  You heard me… your data doesn’t have to be hosted in the cloud.  The dashboards and reports are still published to the cloud but your data can stay on-prem.  This is a very significant move toward Power BI becoming an enterprise-ready technology. The iOS app for iPad is now in the Apple Store and is also currently free.  It allows users to view and interact with published dashboards in a native app on their iPad.  An iPhone version of the app will soon be available.  This app is similar to, but not quite the same thing as, Power View; it’s more of a dashboard view-only app with touch-friendly interactions.  For Power View users, it will be familiar and it’s very intuitive and easy to use.  This is another big step forward for Microsoft BI.  These are some camera shots on my iPad.  Even if you don’t have your own data and models to browse, the included samples are great.  Check-out the details here and then go to the iTunes or App Store and search for Power BI to install it yourself. image The new REST APIS for Power BI are still very early and in preview but they show that we will be able to integrate Power BI capabilities into custom business solutions.  This is a long-awaited capability that holds a lot of promise for serious developers and system integrators.  Get the preview here. Power BI – and everything related to it – is Microsoft’s big-bet for BI and this is where their resources and innovations are being invested.  Given the dependence on the cloud, I don’t see all of our enterprise consulting clients jumping on the bandwagon just yet but I do see many more businesses beginning to take this option more seriously, especially with the promise of integration APIs and on-premises data support. Here is a collection of recent blog posts and announcements: Chris Webb’s Blog: New Improvements to Power BI in Excel: