The short version of this post: as far as Data Visualization is a concern, the new Power View from Microsoft is the marketing disaster, the architectural mistake and the generous gift from Microsoft to Tableau, Qlikview, Spotfire and dozens of other vendors.

For the long version – keep reading.

Assume for a minute (OK, just for a second) that new Power View Data Visualization tool from Microsoft SQL Server 2012 is almost as good as Tableau Desktop 7. Now let’s compare installation, configuration and hardware involved:

Tableau:

  1. Hardware:  almost any modern Windows PC/notebook (at least dual-core, 4GB RAM).
  2. Installation: a) one 65MB setup file, b) minimum or no skills
  3. Configuration: 5 minutes – follow instructions on screen during installation.
  4. Price – $2K.

Power View:

  1. Hardware: you need at least 2 server-level PCs (each at least quad-core, 16GB RAM recommended). I will not recommend to use 1 production server to host both SQL Server and SharePoint; if you desperate, at least use VM(s).
  2. Installation: a) Each Server  needs Windows 2008 R2 SP1 – 3GB DVD; b) 1st Server needs SQL Server 2012 Enterprise or BI Edition – 4GB DVD; c) 2nd Server needs SharePoint 2010 Enterprise Edition – 1GB DVD; d) A lot of skills and experience
  3. Configurations: Hours or days plus a lot of reading, previous knowledge etc.
  4. Price: $20K or if only for development it is about $5K (Visual Studio with MSDN subscription) plus cost of skilled labor.

As you can see, Power View simply cannot compete on mass market with Tableau (and Qlikview and Spotfire) and time for our assumption in the beginning of this post is expired. Instead now is time to remind that Power View is 2 generations behind Tableau, Qlikview and Spotfire. And there is no Desktop version of Power View, it is only available as a web application through web browser.

Power View is a Silverlight application packaged by Microsoft as a SQL Server 2012 Reporting Services Add-in for Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010 Enterprise Edition. Power View is (ad-hoc) report designer providing for user an interactive data exploration, visualization, and presentation web experience. Microsoft stopped developing Silverlight in favor of HTML5, but Silverlight survived (another mistake) within SQL Server team.

Previous report designers (still available from Microsoft:  BIDS, Report Builder 1.0, Report Builder 3.0, Visual Studio Report Designer) are capable to produce only static reports, but Power View enables users to visually interact with data and drill-down all charts and Dashboard similar to Tableau and Qlikview.

Power View is a Data Visualization tool, integrated with Microsoft ecosystem. Here is a Demo of how the famous Hans Rosling Data Visualization can be reimplemented with Power View:

Compare with previous report builders from Microsoft, Power View allows many new features, like Multiple Views in a Single Report, Gallery preview of Chart Images, export to PowerPoint, Sorting within Charts by measures and Categories, Multiple Measures in Charts, Highlighting of selected data in reports and Charts, Synchronization of Slicers (Cross-Filtering), Measure Filters, Search in Filters (convenient for a long lists of categories), dragging data fields into Canvas (create table) or Charts (modify visualization), convert measures to categories (“Do Not Summarize”), and many other features.

As with any of 1st releases from Microsoft, you can find some bugs from Power View. For example, KPIs are not supported in Power View in SQL Server 2012, see it here: http://cathydumas.com/2012/04/03/using-or-not-using-tabular-kpis/

Power View is not the 1st attempt to be a full player in Data Visualization and BI Market. Previous attempts failed and can be counted as Strikes.

Strike 1: The ProClarity acquisition in 2006 failed, there have been no new releases since v. 6.3; remnants of ProClarity can be found embedded into SharePoint, but there is no Desktop Product anymore.

Strike 2: Performance Point Server was introduced in November, 2007, and discontinued two years later. Remnants of Performance Point can be found embedded into SharePoint as Performance Point Services.

Both failed attempts were focused on the growing Data Visualization and BI space, specifically at fast growing competitors such as Qliktech, Spotfire and Tableau. Their remnants in SharePoint functionally are very behind of Data Visualization leaders.

Path to Strike 3 started in 2010 with release of PowerPivot (very successful half-step, since it is just a backend for Visualization) and xVelocity (originally released under name VertiPaq). Power View is continuation of these efforts to add a front-end to Microsoft BI stack. I do not expect that Power View will gain as much popularity as Qlikview and Tableau and in my mind Microsoft will be a subject of 3rd strike in Data Visualization space.

One reason I described in very beginning of this post and the 2nd reason is absence of Power View on desktop. It is a mystery for me why Microsoft did not implement Power View as a new part of Office (like Visio, which is a great success) – as a new desktop application, or as a new Excel Add-In (like PowerPivot) or as a new functionality in PowerPivot or even as a new functionality in Excel itself, or as new version of their Report Builder. None of these options preventing to have a Web reincarnation of it and such reincarnation can be done as a part of (native SSRS) Reporting Services – why involve SharePoint (which is – and I said it many times on this blog – basically a virus)?

I am wondering what Donald Farmer thinking about Power View after being the part of Qliktech team for a while. From my point of view the Power View is a generous gift and true relief to Data Visualization Vendors, because they do not need to compete with Microsoft for a few more years or may be forever. Now IPO of Qliktech making even more sense for me and upcoming IPO of Tableau making much more sense for me too.

Yes, Power View means new business for consulting companies and Microsoft partners (because many client companies and their IT departments cannot handle it properly), Power View has a good functionality but it will be counted in history as a Strike 3.

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