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Power BI General Availability Date Announced

In a little bit of an underplayed blog post, Microsoft announced last weekend that Power BI general availability would be July 24, 2015.   This is great to finally hear/read, because it has felt like DECADES since the preview for the Power BI “new experience” went online.
In reality though, it’s only been since the beginning of this year.  And the development of the product, given constant online feedback, has been impressive.  If Microsoft intends for this offering to compete with Tableau and Qlik in the modern analytics visualization market, they needed to step up.  I feel they have.  They have added features, refined the UX , and apparently have brought the previewed Power BI Designer tool into it’s own, with the re-dubbed Power BI Desktop tool.
So what does GA bring for users of the current Preview service?  On that date, those accounts will be converted to Power BI free accounts.  Features included in Power BI Pro (the pay version of the service) will be disabled.   Bottom line, users of the preview will have to choose whether it’s worthwhile to pay based on the differences in functionality.  For $9.99 a month per user, it’s a relatively inexpensive prospect
What does this bring for Microsoft?  It’s the third draft of a “Microsoft BI” story they’ve been working on for several years — at least since 2010.  The story editing has definitely improved things, but there are still plots that go nowhere (hello PerformancePoint Services?), new characters every chapter (welcome, Rev R and DataZen!)., and sometimes it’s like a choose-your-own-adventure (“… if you choose NOT to run your solution in Azure, turn to page 108 …”) .
But the Power BI offering is solid, and it finally fills in a gap for many years in the Micosoft toolset: front-end visualizations.  The “2-for-1” idea of linking that offering to self-service BI is also smart.  If they can continue to establish a coherent set of functionality around the brand, incorporating new tool acquisitions, I have high hopes for the product.   I believe the final pieces of the puzzle for Power BI as an offering are going to be overcoming (or just waiting out) the general market’s cloud aversion, and establishing an Enterprise level story for Power BI — particularly around security.

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