Can Microsoft bring BI to the masses if the Excel 2013 masses can't get BI?

Can Microsoft bring BI to the masses if the Excel 2013 masses can't get BI?

Summary: Microsoft is restricting which of its Office 2013 SKUs will include access to its PowerPivot data-analytics add-in, which is a key component of the company's business-intelligence platform.


Microsoft's carrot-and-stick approach designed to move users to Microsoft-preferred Office SKUs is continuing. The latest group to discover new and more restrictive Office 2013 licensing changes is the Excel data-analytics crowd.


Excel has become a cornerstone of Microsoft's business-intelligence strategy. With Excel 2010, Microsoft made PowerPivot -- one of its prime data-analytics technologies -- available for use by anyone with any edition of Excel 2010 by installing the PowerPivot for Excel add-in.

But with Excel 2013, the latest version of Microsoft's spreadsheet program, only those with the Office Professional Plus version of the new Office will have full access to Excel 2013's BI capabilities.

The Excel/Microsoft BI community is none too happy about Microsoft's decision to restrict full PowerPivot functionality, as is evident in the comments from various blog posts on the topic. A few choice ones from posts on and

"So then if you want PowerPivot, you stick with 2010 and get it free! Hrrrmmmm that doesn’t seem like a good way to sell 2013."

"So much for BI for the masses, I guess. Large corporation have BI solutions anyway, but small companies suddenly had access to a great BI solution, and without sharepoint, you had to rely on everybody haviing the newest version of Office."

They are doing everything in their power to make the non-subscription product unappealing. I’m surprised they don’t include a free pile of dog crap in every box."


Update: What's Microsoft saying about this latest licensing revelation? I asked and an Office team spokesperson and got this revised (as of February 19) statement: 

"People can get PowerPivot and Power View with one of the following options:

  • Office Professional Plus 2013 via Open, Select or Enterprise Agreement; 
  • Excel 2013 standalone via Open or Select;
  • Office 365 ProPlus via Office 365 when it becomes available 2/27/13.

"After introducing these capabilities broadly in our 2010 releases, we found that businesses were the primary users of these advanced business intelligence features in Excel, so we’ve made them available via the licensing programs businesses already use. Businesses can get these capabilities with a minimum of 5 Office licenses via most licensing programs or with an individual Office 365 ProPlus subscription."


A number of commenters on aforementioned blogs noted that unless every Excel user has full access to all the PowerPivot functionality, Microsoft's BI technology has less of a chance for full acceptance. Small business users may not be willing or able to purchase Office Professional Plus, which is available to volume licensees and will be part of the Office 365 Small Business Premium Service (but not the cheaper Office 365 Small Business one). And students are highly unlikely to have access to the Professional Plus SKU, either, some have noted, which could limit the pool of entering the workforce who are already conversant with Microsoft's BI technology.

Microsoft is set to launch the business versions of its latest Office 365/new Office offerings on February 27. The company is webcasting the virtual launch (registration is required).

Microsoft officials acknowledged late last week that users purchasing all standalone Office 2013 product are licensed to use it on one PC only. (In other words, the license is non-transferrable.) Microsoft is offering users who want the new Office the right to install Office 2013 on multiple computers, but only if they purchase Office 365 Home Premium, a subscription version, rather than the one-time, perpetually licensed Office 2013 product.

Update: Microsoft Most Valuable Professional Chris Webb says it best in his attempt to dissect the PowerPivot  licensing shift: "My head hurts! All these editions and licences… it would be nice if it was less complicated."

Topics: Business Intelligence, Big Data, Microsoft


Mary Jo has covered the tech industry for 30 years for a variety of publications and Web sites, and is a frequent guest on radio, TV and podcasts, speaking about all things Microsoft-related. She is the author of Microsoft 2.0: How Microsoft plans to stay relevant in the post-Gates era (John Wiley & Sons, 2008).

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  • Microsoft should have put this sticker or call out on the Office website

    'Now includes stop using us or don't upgrade to 2013 at all'
    • Microsoft need to stop and take a breath

      Microsoft's problem is that they are rushing into all these business ventures without a corporate strategy. Each division of Microsoft seems to be uncoordinated with the other divisions at Microsoft. I don't know if it is Ballmer's self serving leadership style which is causing Microsoft to act like a splintered company but this did not go on during Bill Gates reign. Maybe Ballmer needs to go.
      Tim Jordan
  • It's like watching bread decay...

    It's like watching bread the time Microsoft looks at itself from the outside-in, the very core will alright have been spoiled.

    This is a crazy trend. What's next...limiting number pages non Office 365 subscribers can create in Word or how about removing all the document libaries from SharePoint.
    • This is about the money...

      I started with MSDN, the one distributed on CD and it was a glorified MSDN help file around 1994. Then with each passing year things became better. Sure the price went up slightly, but things were better. Around the year 2000 there was a bang. Instead of a better MSDN, there was a "versioned" MSDN. The prices between the versions was not just a bit, but quite a bit.

      Around the same time, Microsoft decided to make Visual Studio independent and you buy a basic version for about a hundred USD. They also created various versions reflecting the various functionalities. Then in 2005 a bang occured where instead of different versions you had free with many many restrictions or expensive. The middle of the road disappeared.

      Now the exact same thing is happening with Office. They are giving you expensive software, or cheap subscriptions. This is their approach to scratch their itch to change. It does not help you the client and is totally artificial. It is there to make more money for Microsoft.

      However, as I was a LONG LONG time Microsoft supporter 2012 is the year I finally cut loose. It was Windows 8 and I have not looked back since. I use Linux (Ubuntu) and OSX. I did not cut loose in one go, it happened over the years.

      As an investor, I am making the prediction, 2020 Microsoft will be history. They will go the way of DEC, WANG, Computer Associates, etc. Microsoft has planted the seeds of their destruction and is following it. Look at mobile adoption, after 2 years they are still a statistical error in adoption values. And their surface? Yeah that has plenty of people saying, "oh its good..."
      • I don't think they will be dying

        Microsoft will always be around. As long as you have businesses, as long as you students and educators, you will always have Microsoft. For a lot of users, Microsoft works, but my life is changing and far as I see it, the Microsoft technology I now have in my life (Windows 7 and Office 2010) are good enough.

        Personally, I like Microsoft product, but starting this year, I see myself making a major change for the first time.
      • Yup, Same here

        I started getting irritated with Microsft Office after version 2000, when they started moving menu items around, trying to be "smarter" than my users, and generally being a slight annoyance. Then came Office 2007, not only did it have an incompatible version, but they didn't offer a compatibility shim for pre-2007 Office for several months. Most of my users balked at the Ribbon too. We did upgrade from Office 2003 to Office 2010 just last year because it is fairly usable and stable. You'll notice that there was a 7 year gap between Office versions, and we didn't have a problem until earlier last year when a large portion of our extenal users were using Office 2007 or Office 2010. Yeah, we'll be sticking with Office 2010 for at least 5 years, and very likely, between Microsoft imploding and LibreOffice becoming better and better, we'll be moving of Microsoft Office at that time.
        Technical John
      • educators depend on MicroSoft and will forever??

        It wasn't that long ago that educators used Apple]['s exclusively. Now, they don't. Apple went nutz and lost many of their original early adopters. They switched to PC's and there was MS. That will change again, and hopefully MS is on it's last tryanical legs.
  • So, so true

    "They are doing everything in their power to make the non-subscription product unappealing. I’m surprised they don’t include a free pile of dog crap in every box."

  • " would be nice if it was less complicated."

    " would be nice if it was less complicated."

    It's not complicated.

    Purchase bad. Subscription good.
  • wait

    What Microsoft is doing has traditionally been done over a couple of versions so as to ease people into any new concepts they have. They do not have that luxury anymore with the landscape changing each time you blink. Admittedly they could do a better job of it but because of the upheaval in the last few years it seems they have a few headless chooks in there midst.
    We all should understand there is a very fine line between being today's top dog and yesterday's hero.
  • So my present version is my last version !

    There are so many lite-weight and simpler alternative that I rarely use Office anymore. So thank you Microsoft for freeing me from the irrational impulse to habitually upgrade Office !
    • yep, steering clear of 2013

      I just got 2010 for cheap through a work discount, otherwise I'd still be on '07. And I expect 07 would have been good for a long long time for me, along with Windows 7. Maybe that's part of MS's problem, but they aren't offering a compelling reason to replace either of those products.
    • lite weight

      If you need lite weight applications then by all means use something simpler. If you make your living with VSTO and Pivot tables then you need full Excel
  • Thanks Mary Jo

    Thank you Mary Jo for bringing this to broader attention. I'm still hoping they reconsider this one. It would actually make them more money to reverse the decision even though I understand how it looked otherwise in the star chamber where this plan was drawn up.

    -Rob (
  • office 2013 licensing

    Interesting comment about office 2013 licensing from russian msft:

    "This is wrong. This is PKC license (Product Key Card) of Office 2013, and it is compared with the Retail Office 2010 license. Office 2010 PKC ( has the same limitations, and can't moved to another machine. So, nothing changes"
  • Microsoft is not a player in serious data analytics

    That's the realm of SPSS and Stata, and that's not going to change anytime soon and probably never, so I'm not sure what their point is with this Excel add-on.
    • Don't the door hit you on the way out of your next job interview JCMB

      PowerPivot is the end-user self-service component of a very large and robust OLAP and in-memory engine within SQL Server.

      The amazing thing though is that Data Analysts are becoming empowered through Excel. Do a quick search on Gartner BI 2013 to see the groundswell happening.

      Then look at this blog to see how Excel experts are changing this space every day.
      • Yeah...

        I'm going to use a site called "" as a reference to how wicked cool PowerPivot is. And speaking of job interviews, see how far you get for any research job involving data analytics if all you are familiar with is PowerPivot. The big 4 software packages for data analysis are Stata, SPSS R, and SAS. Using Excel with an add-on for data analysis is like using Excel for database management -- you can do that and a lot of people do, but only due to unfamiliarity with serious database management applications.
        • how many?

          "The big 4 software packages for data analysis are Stata, SPSS R, and SAS."

          Is there a missing comma there, or is that 3 packages?
          • Yes, there should be a comma between SPSS and R

            Yes, there should be a comma between SPSS and R