Microsoft Says Power BI Will Come Out Of Preview On July 24, Open Sources Visualization Stack

Microsoft today announced that Power BI, the company’s cloud-hosted self-service business intelligence service, will hit general availability on July 24. Power BI originally launched as part of Office 365 back in July 2013. Since then, the company has completely revamped the service and the new version has been in preview for quite a while now.

Now, Microsoft is taking both Power BI and the Power BI Designer for the desktop (which is now called Power BI Desktop) out of preview on July 24. While Power BI on the web is mostly geared toward making it easy for anybody within a company to easily visualize data and generate reports, the desktop tool was built for analysts who may want more granular control over how they access and analyze their data.

The idea behind Power BI, as the company’s corporate VP for its Business Intelligence Products Group James Phillips told us, is to give any business user easy access to business analytics. He noted that during the preview period, 45,000 companies signed up for the service and used it.

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Out of the box, the service will ship with connectors that allow you to pull in data from a wide variety of data sources ranging from Github, Twilio and Google Analytics, to QuickBooks, Marketo, Salesforce, Microsoft Dynamics CRM and Zendesk. As long as you have the credentials to access those accounts (or IT gives them to you), you can pull the data into Power BI and start setting up dashboards and interactive reports. You can, of course, also access data from traditional database systems and import your Excel or CSV files. Depending on the source, Power BI can pull in this data in real time, too.

Phillips stressed that Power BI runs on top of Microsoft’s global network and that the service is available in 44 languages. A few days ago, the company also quietly released the preview versions of the Power BI mobile app for Android. With this, the service is now available on iPhone, iPad, Android, Windows and the web.

Other new features the company is adding this month ahead of the general availability of the service include new visualizations and formatting features, as well as new collaboration tools and improved Excel support. As Microsoft also announced today, the service now supports Apache Spark for HDinsights in preview, Microsoft’s Hadoop-based big data solution.

What’s maybe even more interesting, though, is that the company has decided to open source the library that powers the service’s visualizations. The company is making this library available under the MIT license. Phillips hopes that this will enable developers to create their own custom visualizations. “Gone are the days of ‘here are the ten types of charts you can use to visualize your data,'” he said. “If you want something really custom that no one else would find relevant, you can now do that with Power BI.” He also expects that other vendors will pick up this technology and offer their customers the ability to interoperate across solutions. The code is now available on GitHub.

As Microsoft announced earlier this year, PowerBI (which was available for free during the preview) will feature a free tier once it launches. The free tier is limited to a data capacity of 1GB per user and 10,000 rows of data streamed into the service per hour. For paid accounts, which cost $9.99 per user and month, those limits are 10GB per use and 1 million rows per hour. For free accounts, data that isn’t pulled in is automatically refreshed once per day. Paid users get hourly data refreshes.

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