Microsoft's Power BI hits 5M subscribers, adds deeper Excel integration

Microsoft has a ton of new features planned for its cloud-based BI service

Microsoft's cloud-based business intelligence service is celebrating a major user growth milestone with a handful of new features, including the ability to import data from an Excel spreadsheet and turn it into live-updating charts and graphs.

Power BI now has more than 5 million subscribers, who are using the service to take in business data and create dashboards they can use to better understand their businesses. Starting Tuesday, those subscribers will be able to use an Excel connector to easily "pin" live-updating data from the Excel desktop app to a Power BI dashboard.

Both that feature, and one that allows users to analyze data from Power BI in Excel, were previously available for beta testing and are now generally available.

The service will also get role-level security for cloud models and direct query. One user with access to a set of company data in Power BI can create one dashboard that will show users a subset of information based on what they're allowed to see.

To help organizations understand how their employees are using Power BI, Microsoft by the end of the month will also add tenant-level usage reports that will show how people are using different features of the service, including reports and dashboards. It's an important feature because licensing Power BI Pro costs $9.99 per user every month.

In addition to the Power BI news, Microsoft Research also released SandDance, a new data visualization tool that takes information and shows data points as cubes on a three-dimensional graph. It's currently available in beta for Windows and Power BI, and aims to make it possible for people to look at data in interesting ways, like showing where events occur on a map, and then stacking data points on locations to show where they occur most frequently.

The news comes as Tableau, one of Microsoft's competitors in the cloud-based business intelligence space headquartered in nearby Seattle, has seen its stock hammered following missed revenue projections.

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