Today we’re pleased to announce the addition of significant new features to the Power BI for Office 365 preview, including natural language search with Q&A and improved experiences in two preview add-ins for Excel with 3D mapping visualizations through Power Map and improved data search in Power Query.

Introduced in July and currently in preview, Power BI for Office 365 is a self-service business intelligence (BI) service delivered through Office 365. Complementing Excel, it arms information workers with data analysis and visualization capabilities, enabling them to identify deeper business insights either on premises or within a trusted cloud environment. With Power BI for Office 365, customers can connect to data in the cloud or extend their existing on premises data sources and systems to quickly build and deploy self-service BI solutions hosted in Microsoft’s enterprise cloud. You can sign up to register for the preview here.

We’ve had the preview open to an initial wave of customers for the past month and are encouraged by the enthusiastic response we’ve received. Today we’re excited to share some of the new features we’ve added recently to both Excel and the Power BI for Office 365 service.

Search-driven data visualization with Q&A

One of the Power BI features users have been most interested in is Q&A, which takes enterprise data search and exploration to a whole new level. With Q&A, we looked at how consumers experienced Bing search and used that knowledge to enable customers to query their enterprise data and generate stunning visual results. The search experience is instantaneous and uses natural language query – Q&A interprets the question the user is asking and serves up the correct interactive chart or graph. We’ve received great responses from customers who have tested this capability and look forward to hearing what you think. To see Q&A in action, check out this video:

Storytelling through 3D mapping with Power Map

First previewed a few months ago, Power Map (formerly GeoFlow) is an add-in for Excel which gives users the ability to plot geographic and temporal data visually on Bing Maps, analyze that data in 3D, and create interactive tours to share with others. This month, we made some significant updates to Power Map on the Download Center including immediate geo-coding of geospatial elements of data coupled with new region-based visualization that color-codes these geo-political areas: zip code, county, state, country/region. Users can also take the interactive tours designed in Power Map to create videos optimized for mobile, tablets/computer, and HD displays. These videos can be shared anywhere, including social media, PowerPoint slides, and Office 365. To read more about the new features if Power Map, check out the Excel blog.

Power Map

Simplifying data discovery with Power Query

We’ve also updated Power Query an add-in to Excel which helps customers easily discover, combine and transform their data. We have improved the online search experience and expanded the number of available datasets including popular datasets from data.gov and the Windows Azure Marketplace, in addition to Wikipedia. We’ve also improved the external data import for SQL Server/Windows Azure SQL Database, as well as the overall filter capabilities across all supported data sources. Additionally, Power Query now supports different merge options for more flexibility in building your queries. We’re offering better integration with Excel so users can share queries with others in their organizations.

Power Query

These new features compliment the current capabilities already included in the Power BI preview, such as:

  • Power BI Sites – Quickly create collaborative BI sites in Office 365 for teams to share reports and data views. Larger workbook viewing is now supported (up to 250MB) so users can view and interact with larger workbooks through the browser.
  • Data Stewardship – Users can now not only share their workbooks but also the data queries they create in Excel.
  • Data Catalog – IT departments now have a new way to provision users by enabling data search. IT departments can register corporate data with the Data Catalog so that users can discover this data with the new online search feature introduced with Power Query for Excel.
  • Mobile Access – Mobile BI access to reports in Office 365 is provided through new HTML 5 support and a native mobile application for Windows 8 tablets available in the Windows Store.

Bringing big data to a billion users

Power BI for Office 365 is just one way we are delivering on our vision to enable the broadest set of people to gain actionable insights from big data, at any time and from anywhere. With Power BI we are providing access to powerful business analytics tools, built into our existing products including Excel and Office 365 to make data analysis engaging and impactful.

To learn more and register for the preview visit www.powerbi.com. You can also download Power Map and Power Query along with sample datasets on the Power BI add-in Getting Started page. To see Power BI for Office 365 in action, check out this demonstration. Tell us what you think by posting in the comments below or tweeting us at @SQLServer #MSBI #PowerBI. And check out the Power BI blog for more detailed information on the features and functionality in Power BI.

Power BI for Office 365