As part of an ongoing effort to dramatically expand the base of users that can access business intelligence (BI) software, Microsoft announced this week that it is wrapping a freemium business model around the Microsoft Power BI service.
John Doyle, director of product marketing for Microsoft Power BI, says the free version of the product will come with a broad range of pre-built connectors to access a variety of data sources along with a Power BI Designer module that is intended to make it simpler for users to model data.
A Power BI Pro service that provides additional data capacity and features for the enterprise will be unfurled later this year. In the meantime, the cost of the existing version of Microsoft Power BI will be reduced to $9.99 per user a month starting February 1st.
Doyle says that while spreadsheets such as Microsoft Excel continue to be the dominant application users rely on to explore data, Microsoft expects that by making Power BI both more affordable and accessible, the population of BI application users will expand considerably in the months ahead. The end goal, says Doyle, is to enable end users to combine both historical and real-time data regardless of where that data happens to be or which device is being employed to access the Microsoft Power BI service.
Longer term, Microsoft continues to invest heavily in all forms of data analytics. The company just acquired Revolution Analytics to gain R programming expertise and has made a number of data analytics and machine learning applications available as a service on the Microsoft Azure cloud.
Between those services, Microsoft Office 365 and Power BI, it’s clear that Microsoft is trying to assemble a critical mass of data products that will eventually be used to drive any number of data-as-a-service offerings.
The degree to which Microsoft can harness all that data in the cloud remains to be seen. But the one thing that is for certain is that Microsoft’s assemblage will make it a force to be reckoned with well beyond infrastructure services.