Microsoft has quietly pinned a price tag on its Power BI business intelligence tools, which are currently in preview.
There will be three different Power BI for Office 365 price points -- $20 a month for Office 365 E3/E4 enterprise users; $40 per month as a standalone service; and $52 per month for users who want PowerBI along with locally-installable Office 365 ProPlus SKUs. The $20 a month price seems like it's an introductory price, as the "regular" price looks to be $33 per month, based on the chart on Microsoft's Web site.
Power BI for Office 365 is Microsoft's self-service business intelligence bundle. It includes PowerPivot, Power View, Power Query (formerly known as Data Explorer) and Power Maps (formerly known as GeoFlow) delivered as Office 365 subscription services. Power BI for Office 365 works in conjunction with Excel and SharePoint, which allows customers to integrate their on-premises data with Power BI in the cloud.
Microsoft announced the Power BI for Office 365 preview in July 2013. In September, Microsoft rolled out new preview functionality for Power BI. (That natural-language search capability is known as Q&A, formerly codenamed "InfoNav.") In December, Microsoft added more new functionality to the preview, including a preview of a new PowerQuery add-in for Excel. Microsoft officials haven't provided a timeframe as to when Power BI will exit preview.
"This (Power BI) appears to be their official answer to 'how do I get mobile-enabled BI from Microsoft?' initially for the Windows Store, and in time for the iPad," said Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft.
Miller said he considered the new pricing is "pretty compelling, especially when one considers that Power BI could mean a lot less care and feeding (and spend) on internal workgroup BI servers (deploying and integrating SharePoint and SQL Server) and a lot more time answering business questions."
Andrew Brust, founder of Blue Badge Insights (and "Big on Data" blogger on ZDNet), was a bit less bullish on the Power BI pricing.
"The 'full boat' package of Power BI + Office ProPlus is $624/user/year, which is almost exactly 25% more than Tableau Online, at $500/year. Even the Standalone package is $480/user/year which is only a little less than Tableau," Brust said.
And while Tableau is considered by many as high-priced, it's established. Power BI is the challenger, Brust noted.
"Granted, existing Office 365 E3/E4 users only need to pony up an extra $240/user/year, which is less than half Tableau online," Brust said. However, "my read of the cloud BI market though, at least for now, is that most of it is made up of companies that would not already be customers of such high-end O365 SKUs," Brust added.
In other Office 365-related news, in mid-December, Microsoft announced more plan-switching options for Office 365 users. Originally unveiled in the summer of 2013, Microsoft's plan-switching capabilities initially were limited to within certain plan families.
Office 365 Small Business users can now upgrade to either an Office 365 Midsize or Enterprise plan, and Office 365 Midsize users to an Enterprise plan.
In July 2013, Microsoft announced that its reseller partners would be able to offer customers Office 365 "transition SKUs" that would allow for upgrading more seamlessly to a different set of Office 365 offerings. Before that, Office 365 midsize customers couldn't move to an Office 365 Enterprise plan without having to migrate all their data out and back into a new tenant.
One caveat worth noting is the new flexibility in plan switching applies only to moving to a bigger and more expensive Office 365 plan. Downgrading to a smaller/cheaper plan isn't permitted. I asked Microsoft about the downgrade limitation and was told by a spokesperson:
“We listen closely to the feedback we receive, and are constantly working to improve our product experiences, but we don’t have anything more to share at this time.”