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

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.
Written by Mary Jo Foley, Senior Contributing Editor

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 PowerPivotPro.com and DataPigTechnologies.com:

"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."

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