Power BI preview

By Stuart Box

Power BI in Practice Power BI Resources

Last week Microsoft made several important announcements about Power BI, you can read the whole thing on the Microsoft Official Blog I’ve taken a look at what this means for those of us in the UK working with Power BI. It’s always interesting working with the latest version of Microsoft’s new tools, but sometimes you have to tread a little carefully.

First Things First – A Price Cut

Probably the most important thing for those contemplating Power BI, or those already using it, is the fact that Microsoft has cut the price. Previously the Power BI add-on to Office 365 (E3/E4) was £13.00 per user/month. This was actually pretty steep when you consider the cost of Office 365 itself is £15.00 per user/month for the E3 package, this “add-on” nearly doubled the price! But now Microsoft has reduced the Power BI add-on price to £7.99 per user/month. So if you’ve felt Power BI was too expensive for you this will help, a lot. For those of us already using Power BI  Microsoft says we’ll be “transitioned” to the new rates when the products become available.

Power BI Preview

The announcement introduced the Power BI Preview, which I look on as a preview of Version 2 of Power BI. The downside for UK businesses is that the Preview is only available to those with a USA Email address at present. You have to provide your email address to register for the free Preview, but if this is not a USA hosted address you won’t be able to join. You also can’t use “social” or “Personal” email addresses (Like Gmail or Facebook), it has to be a USA commercial address. So we’ll have to wait to try out all the Power BI goodness.

Power BI Designer

However one part of the preview we Brits can experience is the PowerBI designer. This is a tool you can download from Microsoft, that’s used to create data queries and Dashboards, very much like Power Query and Power View. If you’ve used either of these Excel power tools, Power BI Designer will be very familiar, and you can create Dashboards quickly and easily. Unfortunately, until the Power BI Preview is available to the UK, there’s no way you can upload the resulting “.pbix” files to SharePoint, we’ll have to wait for the Preview.

Power BI Pro and Free

The announcement also details that Power BI will be split into a Free and a Paid version. Details are sketchy at the moment, but it looks like Microsoft is using the classic “Drug Dealer Model” to pull in customers. The Free version will allow you to create Dashboards and Visualisations, but have limited functionality in some areas. In particular, we know that Data Refresh will be limited, but there may be others. So once you’re hooked on Power BI Free for the full functionality you’ll have to go for the “Power BI Pro” chargeable licence.

And this means?

Well,  Power BI is changing, growing and becoming easier to use and afford. The price cuts and new functionality will lead more organisations to look at how they can get the most out of their corporate data, and how they can share it amongst their colleagues. Key to this will be learning how to use the Excel Power Tools, Power View, Power Query, Power Map and the new Power Designer. It’s been obvious for some time that Spreadsheets are changing, Microsoft has just increased that pace of change.

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