Where's your mobile business intelligence strategy, Microsoft?

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Most business intelligence (BI) firms talk up their mobile strategy in some shape or form, but one company is keeping notably quiet about its agenda, and that's Microsoft.

The small pure-play BI firms, such as QlikTech and Microstrategy, were the first to lead BI into the mobile sphere a couple of years ago.

Since then, many of the stack vendors have followed suit, most notably SAP with Business Objects Mobile in 2010, which is probably the most robust and pervasive mobile offering from all of the stack vendors, and supports the most mobile devices.

IBM follows closely with Cognos Mobile for the BlackBerry and the recent support it added for the iPhone at the end of 2010, while Oracle released Business Intelligence Mobile for devices running iOS earlier this year.

As each firm makes a mobile update, they are heralded as the only way forward for BI.

So what is Microsoft doing? Not much it seems.

Redmond's BI offering is available as part of the Office and SharePoint Server suites, and is built on the SQL Server platform, with Excel providing one of the main BI interfaces for users, as well as the dashboards from SharePoint Server.

When it comes to mobile, though, Microsoft BI runs only on the Windows platform, so that means compatibility with just Windows 7 devices.

Donald Farmer, the former face of Microsoft BI, who has now left to work for QlikView, said that when he left Microsoft in January this year the BI team was not thinking in mobile terms at all.

When asked what Microsoft's BI strategy involves, he replied: "Great question. I wish I knew!"

"Microsoft's mobile strategy is tied up with Windows 7. There was no mobile strategy that filtered down to individual teams while I was there. It's only such a large company that can release a product with no knowledge of its future strategy. You won't find Steve Ballmer losing sleep over BI," he told V3.

One customer, frustrated by Microsoft's lack of mobile strategy, has posted a comment on the company's BI Facebook page.

"What is Microsoft's mobile BI strategy? Please think beyond Windows 7 phones - it must work on all platforms," said Tricia Wilcox Almas.

"This trend is not going away and I need tools now. My clients will abandon their Microsoft bias if there is no offering and others are willing to fill in the gap!"

Microsoft told her that its strategy is to allow partners to build "a host of mobile apps to meet a variety of scenarios".

"You can expect more from us in the phone and slate form factors. More to come," the firm added.

Microsoft could not comment on its mobile BI strategy at the time this story was published, but it wouldn't be surprising to see the firm make an acquisition in the area to build out its capabilities.

18 Aug 2011

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