Many people have been confused and disappointed with Microsoft’s recent BI strategy, or at least regarding licensing and availability of the various parts of Power BI. It started with PowerPivot (now Power Pivot, of course): a free plug in for Excel 2010, it was more integrated into Excel 2013 but only in certain SKUs and subscriptions, reducing uptake of what could still be a game changer for Microsoft. Eventually Microsoft threw people a bit of a bone in including it in Excel ‘standalone’.
We’ve now grown accustomed to the new strategy, whereby various elements of Power BI available in Excel were available only in top notch versions- Office Professional Plus, or Office 365 ProPlus if you’re on a streaming Office 365 subscription, and the aforementioned Excel standalone.
Then came the announcement that Power Map, one of the jazzy new features of Power BI, would only be part of Office 365 ProPlus- not Professional Plus or standalone. This was really odd, since all the other parts (Power Pivot, Power View and Power Query) were fairly consistently available. This was a new level of exclusivity, and a disappointing one at that. The versions we’d been trying out were going to expire by the summer too!
Thankfully, Microsoft have listened and have changed their mind (kind of): with the April update of Power Map they have also announced that the versions we’ve been working with won’t in fact expire- you’ll be able to download another non-expiring version soon. Although it sounds like great news, it appears it will still only be a preview, unsupported version.
However, the next version of Excel will incorporate a properly supported version. Why they can’t make a properly supported addin available to Professional Plus and Excel standalone users now, I don’t know, but maybe the reasons are technical and down to not wanting to support two diverging versions of a plugin- it is perhaps hard to keep track of all the different versions.
I think they should have gone further, but this is a useful compromise and a step in the right direction for Microsoft.
Next, all they need to do is to put in place a decent solution for developers (MSDN subscribers and otherwise) to get hold of versions of Office that incorporate the latest Power BI stack, including access to the online Power BI for Office 365. At the moment all you can do is get a short trial of Power BI for Office 365, for example. We need to be able to access the latest parts of Power BI, in the cloud and in Excel, to do our jobs, supporting businesses to make the most of the tools. Power BI has some powerful features, like the M language, and optimising Power Pivot models to make the most of Q & A, that may be complex for many users and so Microsoft really needs to support its loyal developers and consultants to help gain Power BI traction in the industry.
April update announcement: