Microsoft Corp. is now making its business intelligence program, branded as Power BI for Office 365, generally available.

While Microsoft actually launched Power BI in closed beta in July 2013, the program is now open to any users who want to pull data from Excel, Windows Azure, and other sources, as well as build visualizations, and analyze what they’re seeing to make decisions about their businesses.

For data in Excel, users can tap into Power BI’s Power Query tool, which allows users to find and connect to data from both open and private sources. They’ll also be able to use Power Pivot, a tool that builds data models, as well as Power View, which creates reports with data visualizations. There is also Power Map – as its name would suggest, that allows users to plug in geospatial data onto a map, transforming that data into a 3D map.

A medal distribution visualization of the Summer Olympics from 1896 to 2008. (Image: Microsoft).
A medal distribution visualization of the Summer Olympics from 1896 to 2008. (Image: Microsoft).

For Office 365 users, they’ll be able to do even more with Power BI. They can access Power BI sites, a place to collaborate on the data reports they’ve created. Plus, they can use Power BI Q&A, which allows them to use natural language queries to build charts and graphs – meaning they can ask their data questions and get it back in an intelligent visualization. (Andrew Brust has an example here on ZDNet).

The move to make Power BI part of Office will “bring these types of data insights to a billion people,” wrote Quentin Clark, Microsoft’s corporate vice-president of the data platform group at Microsoft, in a blog post.

“What we all need is modernized business intelligence which will help everyone get the information they need to understand their job or personal life better. Not just the type of information gained from an Internet search, but also information from expert sources,” Clark added.

“Power BI brings together many key aspects of the modernization of business intelligence: a public and corporate [catalogue] of data sets and BI models, a way to search for data, a modern app and a Web-first experience, rich interactive visualizations, collaboration capabilities, tools for IT to govern data and models, and a groundbreaking natural language experience for exploring insights.”

Pricing for the tool starts at about $20 per user per month for those who’ve subscribed to Office 365 (as a promotional price), $40 for users who already use Office 2013, and $52 per month for users who don’t have either Office 2013 or Office 365.

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