Power View: 3rd strike and Microsoft out?

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:


  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.


  1. I share exactly the same opinion like you since the first moment Microsoft launched this product. And the SharePoint requirement is also a big mistake! Microsoft has huge potential in Excel and i can not understand why they don't invest more on it. For example in Data Mining Add-In or as you told, adding something like Power View or even Pivot Viewer (also Silverlight) to Excel.


  2. Have set myself a reminder to come back here in 1 year to see if you have been proved right.

  3. Man, whats wrong with you..Your post is biased? Most of ProClarity are embedded into SharePoint 2010, so its wrong to say "strike 1 ProClarity failed" because we are still using it. Same for strike 2, PPS is not discontinued and I used the tool 5min ago in SP 2010..

  4. Alan Schofield20/4/12 06:51

    For a start Tableau 7 is 2k per user for the desktop product. Without this you cannot create or modify anything.

    If you want to delivery via the web or publish model centrally, that'll be a copy of Tableau server which starts at 180k for up to 8 cores and 240 concurrent users, alternatively you can pay 1k per user but, if like my company, you have 1500 registered users accessing data that's a non-starter.

    SQL Server and SharePoint are widespread, so in these cases Power View is included as is Excel Services etc., with Tableau all you get is Tableau.

    I agree that Power View is behind in terms of functionality, but for ease of use, creating Report from scratch it it much easier. We supply data models to clients which can be opened using Power View to create reports, we also supply pre-built reports for users that don't want to do anything. These data models can also be opening directly in Excel so they have choices.

    Depending on who I speak to when demoing this stuff to clients you'll get different reactions. For end users who quickly want to look at the data without the need to drill down the underlying numbers the Power view wins hands down. With analysts, they prefer the power of Tableau. These are not my opinions but the views clearly shown time and time again by clients I deal with.

  5. Andrei, I think your criticism of PowerView is accurate in many ways, but also somewhat unfair.

    Power View cannot compete like-for-like with QlikView. If that was the plan then, as you say, it would be a complete failure. The installation and configuration are complex and demanding, there is very little analytic functionality in the tool, and it's relationship to other Microsoft products is very confusing - just ask anyone in the Microsoft sales teams.

    From that point of view you are correct. Power View is a gift to QlikView and we're making the best of it!

    However, let's be fair to the Power View team. Thierry D'Hers (now at Tableau) who carved out much of the vision for both PowerPivot and Power View, incubated, prototyped and help to lead the teams that delivered a refreshing new start in Microsoft's BI toolset. PowerView marks a major step forward for SQL Server (and frankly, for Microsoft in general) in usability and the visual pleasure of working with the tool. The principle of building a thin-client visualization tool to live over their new generation of the BI model is sound. The team have done a good job designing and building it.

    However, shipping enterprise products is slow: development perhaps started when SilverLight was a clear choice rather than HTML5. Microsoft deliberately sells a complete enterprise platform rather than single tools: so there are dependencies on enterprise servers of SharePoint and SQL Server. The Excel team, with perhaps 500 million existing users to support and upgrade, cannot churn their entire data and visualization story between versions: so Power View can be developed more quickly outside the Excel team along with the data model.

    So, in context, Microsoft do not need Power View to be a success this year, or next year, or even at all. What they need is to consolidate their platform, to roll functionality (like in-memory-data and better visualizations) into their standard tools like Excel. In 5 years, Excel will be on a very large number of desktops with great data and visualization capabilities. It needs those capabilities to retain its massive market share in the face of threats, not from BI tools, but from online spreadsheets, and its own aging, cumbersome, legacy.

    Of course, by then, QlikView will still be waaay ahead of Excel in our feature set. That is only natural. We move faster, we have fewer dependencies, we can experiment, extend, enhance and deliver far more functionality. We don't have organizational turf-wars to fight. If what we design is good for the user, it ships in QlikView. Business users and enterprises wanting an analytic edge over their competitors will still be choosing us precisely because everyone else and their dog has Excel: we will always offer an advantage.

    Power View's biggest problem is simply the confusion around which tools and platforms to use. Almost no one can give a coherent story of when to choose and use PowerPivot, Power View, Report Builder, Report Designer, Performance Point, a tabular data model, an OLAP model, Parallel Data Warehouse, the in-memory column store for SQL Server, Excel, Excel Services, Visio and so on. There is no mobile strategy worth the name except a naive hope in Windows8.

    In short - Power View probably does what it is intended to do - which is admittedly very limited. The problem lies not there, but in the sheer messiness of the platform.That is the real gift to QlikView.

  6. As Andrei says, you [can] get the pricing model of Tableau Server [from website]. Sure, you can buy a core with unlimited users but you can also buy a named-user model with as little as 10 users. And for free you can just use Tableau Reader or even distribute PDFs

  7. Hi Donald:

    Thank you very much for your comment - I cannot just reply on your reply - I will have to post on my blog a new post with my answers to your comments. In my mind you are one of the leaders of BI world, for a long time you was for me the face of Microsoft BI team and now you are the Product leader of the leading Data Visualization company - so it will take some time for me to answer.

    My first reaction on your comment surprised me: I wish Bill Gates back from retirement. Lately Microsoft is losing a battle after a battle: search engine "battle", smartphone "war" etc. and now Data Visualization battle even it has all the best components and all money to compete. Don't get me wrong - I am not unfriendly to Microsoft, I am MSDN subscriber since CD1 and majority of my projects done with Microsoft's toolsets. It is just a mystery for me why Microsoft cannot produce a good Data Visualization tool, especially on Desktop.

    So I will need some time before my reply but I think differently from you on this subject.


  8. Thanks Andrei, for sparking an interesting discussion. I do appreciate the fairness afforded both sides of the argument through the comments.

    My three thoughts to add into the mix:
    1. Fully agreed with Donald, I have spent inordinate amounts of time explaining the appropriate use cases which draw the line between the various Microsoft front end tools. I would love to see a more consistent story which allows sharing of report definitions between these environments.

    2. Microsoft own Excel. Penetration onto hundreds of millions of desktops is quite frankly, a great position to be in. Again, I'm placing some hope in the Microsoft Product teams to listen closely to user feedback and to continue developing Excel into a fantastic data discovery tool.

    3. Finally, I have always found that the power of any product, Microsoft / SAP / Qlikview / , is best expressed through the people who use the tools. I have seen both very good and very bad BI implementations, and the key behind the successes have been the vision of the people driving the programs and their ability to see the end result, regardless of toolset.

    Donald, thanks for driving the innovation at QlikView, this disruption is what keeps our market challenging and interesting. :)

    Andrei, looking forward to your follow up blog.


  9. Thanks for the interesting discussion and debate on this subject guys.

    Personally I find MS BI tools have too many dependencies on owning a large chunk of the MS stack. I would love to play around with Power View, evaluate it and do a few demos on my BI blog. But can't justify the time and effort to get it up and working (SharePoint, SQL, SSRS, .Net frameworks etc). So this seems like MS is falling at the first hurdle.

    At the other end of the spectrum is a tool like Tibco Spotfire Silver with virtually a zero footprint via SaaS and is something you can have up and running in less then 1 hour. From a sales perspective being able to deliver a proof of concept solution so quickly is brilliant.

    Seems like Qlikview and Spotfire are going to keep on killing MS in the SMB and Departmental BI space for the foreseeable future.

  10. Hi Steve and thanks for your comment - you and me both have the same problem with Power View: even evaluation of Power View requires too much time and effort. And even if you will spend enough time, the end result will be much less satisfying then with competitors you mentioned, but I will add to your list Tableau and may be a few other tools can easily beat Power View!


  11. [...] Here are some additional thoughts — including Donald Farmer’s viewpoint: http://apandre.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/power-view/ This entry was posted in Uncategorized by Eric Frayer. Bookmark the [...]

  12. Hey, Just though I'd add my 2 cent.

    I saw a live Power View demo about 6 months ago via a Bob Duffy presentation www.prodata.ie and was completely blown away.

    I am more of a DBA by trade and hadn't any experience with Sharepoint. As you mentioned the set-up was a pain, however, being in IT for a while, I've seen more complex set ups and I found a few walkthroughs that gave me a nice step by step guide (bimonkey.com).

    Once set up (about 4 hours after our third attempt) the ease of use of the tool is wonderful and we have done a number of demos for our customers with a superb reaction each time.

    Have seen Qlikview and Tableau demos and they look really well, however as we already have the MS licencing the MSBI option was the value one.

    I know I sound like a MS fan boy here (and I've my issues with SQL Server and the fact this tool is integrated with Sharepoint and doesn't have a report viewer for .NET apps) however I've been really impressed with this offering and hope MS stick with this tool and evolve it in the right direction.

  13. In addition [apologies for the positive comments] as a lot of companies already have SQL server and Sharepoint, depending on their current licencing there may be no cost to them [i.e If they already have enterprise edition SQL under Proc or CAL model] and they get to work with technology they already know.

  14. [...] http://apandre.wordpress.com/2012/04/14/power-view/ [...]

  15. I've read these comments with interest as my company is all about providing hosted MS BI solutions for organisations of all sizes - specifically in the IT domain. We adopted PowerView several months ago and the end-user feedback, the feedback that REALLY matters, has been fantastic. So, you can preach the technology merits of different solutions until the cows come home, but at the end of the day what I'm seeing is that Microsoft has put the missing piece of the puzzle in place. They've now got Scorecards (Performance Point), Enterprise Reporting (SQL Server Report Builder 3.0) and Interactive Analysis (PowerView).

    Furthermore, I've been in competitive bidding situations in the last month with large organisations in Canada and Brazil where we've been up against QlikView and Cognos. These organisations had SharePoint and SQL knowledge so the decision to use Microsoft BI was a no brainer. This wasn't the case previously when PowerView didn't exist.

    Just a perspective from someone that things saying 'SharePoint is a virus' doesn't lend much credibility to your arguments....

  16. Good post but I would not disqualify MS just yet. This is MS's first release and from their commitment to this technology it should only go from strength to strength, particularly give the price and the fact that most small to medium enterprises are MS centric and happy to adopt anything that Redmond comes out with. Check out my comparison of some of the self-service BI tools here: http://bicortex.com/implementing-self-service-bi-with-tableau-public-microsoft-powerview-and-worldwide-telescope-with-excel-add-in/

  17. Have you seen Excel 2013? It now has Power View built in. Microsoft is definitely getting into the game - finally!
    NO SharePoint or SQL Server or SRSS needed, just install Excel and go.

  18. I hope you will do an updated blog post regarding Power View in Excel 2013 and its short-term and long-term expectations. (Though sadly, it still requires Silverlight).

  19. Andrei Pandre8/10/12 13:09

    I may blog about Power View in Excel 2013, unless something more interesting and important will require my time instead. While I like the combination of Excel 2013, PowerPivot and Power View on Desktop, two problems can make it less interesting for me:
    - the usage of Silverlight is not acceptable anymore and
    - inability to share between Power View in Excel and Power View in SharePoint (means I cannot publish my desktop Power View Visualizations on Web; Tableau, Spotfire, Qlikview will laugh at that).

    If somebody can do a good guest blogging about it on my blog, I will consider it too...

  20. Andrei, I agree with your comment about Silverlight (although this will be addressed shortly).

    I think that you have accurately poked a number of holes in PowerView 1 that was released in April of 2012. However, Microsoft addressed most of the issues you have raised six months after that with the SP1 of SQL Server 2012 as well as 2013 versions of Office and SharePoint.

    PowerView 2 now runs on desktop in both Excel and PowerPoint and in combination with PowerPivot it makes Excel a capable self-service tool (I have routinely been able to reproduce in one day what took weeks to develop in QlikView and it runs faster too)

    PowerView 1 may not have been a good at-bat, but the PowerView 2 is clearly a home run.

  21. You can most certainly publish your Power View work done inside Excel entirely to Sharepoint and it'll create a proper tabular database for the data on the server. You're sorely misinformed.

    Apart from the immense bias in your post, you seem to overlook the fact that there are so many users still using Excel for reporting. How could you be better positioned to offer a self service, serious BI tool that sits inside a tool that people inappropriately use for BI?

    Tableau's sub-standard, ugly reporting will take a serious hit from Microsoft's "already out of the box" offering.

  22. I just bought SharePoint Online Plan 2 for 7$ per month per user and can publish PowerView from my Excel 2013!

    Sign up took 5 minutes and there was not set up at all just publish.

    For small companies/groups I believe it will be very cost effective especially that you don't need a server.

    It is just a shame my PowerView reports cannot be made public for my external website.

    Take care

  23. I'm stunned so many people have agreed with you here Andrei, With statements like "SharePoint is a virus" it’s clear your running on a technology bias. If you give me a technology I can implement it poorly and get everyone to hate it… this doesn’t make it a poor product.

    I also find it strange when you push the desktop deli very model so hard when its clear that portability is so important in today’s society with so many applications migrating to web based services.

    Your comparison also seems like apples and oranges. MS has a suite of tools so focusing on PowerView as THE tool is unreasonable as well as comparing it with a single user install of Tableau.

    Your argument with Silverlight is moot, it works well as part of the 2012 release and will be pure HTML5 and CSS3 in SharePoint 2013.

    BI tools should be based around each organisations circumstances and pricing models like the ones above blow Tableau out of the water for us.
    I work for an organisation of 20,000 customers, 1500 staff and the MS BI/SharePoint combo is great. We utilise the full MSBI tech stack with Oracle as our backend data storage.

    Removing technology bias form this discussion the only valid point you have is related to PowerView’s feature set.

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