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Microsoft Refreshes Power BI, Offers Free Standalone Version

Microsoft this week said it is planning to offer a free, standalone version of its Power BI analytics service, in addition to a for-pay premium edition.

The free version will have limited functionality and will retain the Power BI name, while the premium version will be priced at $9.99 and be called Power BI Pro, according to Microsoft's announcement on Tuesday. The company is also updating the service with added connectivity sources and support for Apple iOS.

A preview of the updated Power BI is currently available on this page, with general availability expected later this year. Users can sign up for the preview using any business e-mail address, although it is initially open only to those in the United States. Microsoft said it will be available in other countries in the future.

Launched a year ago, Power BI is aimed at both technical and general business users. The browser-based software-as-a-service (SaaS) tool generates operational dashboards and, as noted in this feature from Redmond magazine, adds new functionality to existing Microsoft information management offerings, namely Excel 2013, Office 365 and SharePoint 2013. 

Microsoft currently has three pricing tiers for Power BI. The most expensive costs $52 per user per month and is included with Office 365 Pro Plus. A standalone version costs $40. The version that is an add-on to an Office 365 E3/E4 subscription costs $33.

Starting Feb. 1, Power BI Pro will be available at the substantially reduced price of $9.99, which is 75 percent less expensive than the highest tier.

The free Power BI version will be limited to 1GB of data per month per user, whereas the paid subscription will allow up to 10GB, according to this comparison chart. Users of the paid version will also have access to 1 million rows per hour of streaming data compared to 10,000 rows for the free service.

The paid Power BI Pro will be required to use such features as access to live data sources, the data management gateway and various collaboration features, including the ability to share refreshable team dashboards, create and publish customized content packs, use Active Directory groups for sharing and managing access control, and shared data queries through the data catalog.

Aside from the pricing changes, Microsoft is also adding new support for new data sources, including GitHub, Marketo, Dynamics CRM, Salesforce, SendGrid and Zendesk. In the pipeline are Inkling Markets, Intuit, Microsoft Dynamics Marketing, Sage, Sumo Logic, Visual Studio Application Insights and Visual Studio Online, among others. 

"Power BI is 'hybrid' by design, so customers can leverage their on-premises data investments while getting all the benefits of our cloud-based analytics service," said James Phillips, general manager of data experiences at Microsoft, in the announcement.

Microsoft is also offering a new tool called Power BI Designer, which enables business analysts to connect with, model and analyze data, letting them easily publish results to any other Power BI user.

The company also recently released a preview of Power BI for iPad, which can be downloaded from the Apple App Store. Phillips noted that versions for iPhones, Android and Windows universal apps will be available later this year.

About the Author

Jeffrey Schwartz is editor of Redmond magazine and also covers cloud computing for Virtualization Review's Cloud Report. In addition, he writes the Channeling the Cloud column for Redmond Channel Partner. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreySchwartz.

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