Microsoft has issued a preview release of an updated Power BI, the firm's cloud-based business intelligence tool, and said it will offer a free version of the service in future to attract more customers into trying it out.
The new preview is currently available only to US customers, but Microsoft is promising to expand the preview to international users in the future.
The company also claimed that it is now easier for users to sign up, simply requiring a business email address for identification. Previous versions of Power BI were tied to an Office 365 subscription.
Among the features in the preview is a new Power BI Designer tool that allows business analysts to connect to, model and visually analyse data, Microsoft said.
The firm also released a preview of an app for Apple's iPad tablet. Power BI for iPad joins the app that Microsoft made available for its own Surface tablets in 2013, which enables users to download and browse Power BI reports while on the move.
Further mobile apps are promised for later this year for the iPhone, the Android platform and Windows universal apps to run across all Window 10 devices.
James Phillips, general manager for data experiences at Microsoft, said on the Microsoft blog that the new release will fundamentally transform the "business of business intelligence".
"For those not familiar with Power BI, it is a cloud-based business analytics service for non-technical business users," he said.
"With any browser or a Power BI mobile app, customers can keep a pulse on their business via live operational dashboards.
"They can deeply explore their business data through interactive visual reports, and enrich it with additional data sources."
When the updated software hits general availability, Microsoft will begin offering a free version known simply as Power BI.
The paid-for version will then be known as Power BI Pro, and will include additional data capacity and extra features aimed at enterprise customers, Microsoft said.
However, before the new release becomes available, Microsoft is moving to lower the price of the existing Power BI release. From 1 February, this will reduced by 75 percent to $9.99 (£6.56) per user per month.
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