Microsoft formerly offered a rather confusing array of centralized business intelligence, reporting, and analytics products aimed primarily at IT developers, with users often assumed to be working with Excel against on-premise SQL Server Analysis Server and SharePoint data sources. The company added cloud-based collaboration in Power BI for Office 365 in 2014, at a rich subscription price. This complemented the Power Query, Power Pivot, Power View, and Power Map self-service BI features added to Excel 2013.
With the introduction of the new stand-alone Power BI, currently in preview, Microsoft hopes to compete with and perhaps leapfrog self-service BI products such as Tableau. The new Power BI includes a Web interface to a service hosted on Azure and a Power BI Designer application for the Windows desktop, and it’s much more modestly priced: A standard account and the Power BI Designer are both free, while a Pro account is $9.99 per user per month.
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