Microsoft has shed more light on Power BI for Office 365, its cloud-hosted business intelligence (BI) tool, and disclosed that specialised tablet apps to view reports will be available for its own Surface devices and Apple's iPad.
However, the promised public preview of the tool has yet to be made available. This was to have been released today, but it has been delayed for unspecified reasons, according to sources close to the company.
First unveiled at Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) last month, Power BI for Office 365 is described by the firm as a complete self-service BI solution delivered as part of Excel and its Office 365 suite of online applications.
Power BI is intended to deliver business intelligence capabilities to everyday business users through an environment they are already familiar with, according to Microsoft. This means integrating the tools into Excel and allowing users to share their data and reports via Office 365 in the cloud.
According to Michael Tejedor, senior product marketing manager at Microsoft, the firm is "super focused on giving customers the ability to connect to the broad array of data out there".
The tools Microsoft is offering for Excel as part of Power BI comprise Power Query (formerly Data Explorer) for searching and accessing public data sets and those internal to the organisation; the Power Map 3D data visualisation tool formerly known as GeoFlow; plus the Power Pivot and Power View tools for analysing and visualising data, respectively.
To better enable collaboration, a feature dubbed Power BI sites allows users to create online workspaces in Office 365, to share Excel worksheets with colleagues and collaborate over results. To help with this, the maximum size of workbook supported in Office 365 has been increased from 10MB to 250MB, Microsoft said.
Power BI sites supports a powerful natural language query handler that lets users query the data set using strings such as "sales by weekday" and see the results generated as a visualisation. A data management gateway enables users to define which on-premise data sources are exposed to the cloud, and refresh the data stored in them.
Microsoft envisions enterprises having a private data catalogue, with users able to save queries in Office 365 in order to re-run the same query at a later date, or even having 'data stewards' to maintain data 'views' for others in the team to consume.
Microsoft said that users will be able to view Power View reports on any device with HTML5 support, but the firm is planning to offer tablet apps when it hits general availability, to enable users to download and browse reports on the move.
Initially, only Microsoft's Surface RT and Surface Pro will be supported, according to Tejedor, but the firm plans to extend this to include an app for Apple's iPad.
Customers can register for the preview at Microsoft's PowerBI site.
Cotton seedling freezes to death as Chang'e-4 shuts down for the Moon's 14-day lunar night
Fortnite easily out-earns PUBG, Assassin's Creed Odyssey and Red Dead Redemption 2 in 2018
Meteor showers as a service will be visible for about 100 kilometres in all directions
Saturn's rings only formed in the past 100 million years, suggests analysis of Cassini space probe data
New findings contradict conventional belief that Saturn's rings were formed along with the planet about 4.5 billion years ago