Power BI is a group of products built and owned by Microsoft Inc. There is a desktop edition, a “cloud instance”/ SaaS edition and a “webserver” edition. They all have different features. This article is mostly focussed on the SaaS version, as this has the best match to the other products in this range of articles. For an important diagram on how the products relate 1 :


As would be expected from a large corporation; the licensing is complex 2 Pricing to share reports with people 3. You can buy at scale, or at the individual level. Please read and understand be making an investment, but licensing is not a technology thing.
@--They 4 do not know how to draw an architecture diagram, but this does contain more data than the MSFT website++ @

As far as I can tell MSFT conceptualises “data” as “an excel file”, not a stream. As it is a fixed size bucket/file, it can easily be ported into other formats. In particular to graph making, all my experience is that the data is a continuous stream.

Features of “Power BI service”

(this is the SaaS/ Cloud instance product)

  • Some of these following points are present, as one needs to wade through loads of marketing which is information poor. PBI is basically a retrospective reporting tool 1
  • It supports a variety of widgets, as is common ...
  • My previous analysis has BPI at 6% of the market [XXX], but various people e.g. 2 like to claim its big and widely used.
  • Various section talk about natural language interpretation, I assume to feed the managers who can't cope with Excel. The desktop edition links Cortana.
  • Supports “filters” which are the same as where clauses in SQL 3
  • Supports SQL joins 4 5
  • Scripting is supported by “data analysis expressions”, these seem to be the same as SQL aggregate functions, or code ripped from ms-access 6 7. This is includes a basic range of maths functions.
  • Supports timeseries graphs 8.
  • There is a file format. With a demo edition we can export to the MSFT file format, then presumably reimport it later 9
  • Supports export to PDFs, and PNG 10
  • Some notes on data sources 11. It does support postgres. It has relatively smart behaviour on missing items 12
  • There is ability to make alerts 13 14
  • This tool supports editing graphs similar to what you can do in power point, most of these are CSS type changes 15 16
  • Supports arcGIS 17 18 19

Also see “Power BI Report Server” i.e. a reporting webserver

  • I guess this is to render your reports, made in the “report version of wordpress” above. Removing the GUI for building queries would lead to a faster server, better designed for publishing

Features of desktop Power BI

Most of these points come from 20

  • Access data from hundreds of supported on-premises and cloud-based sources, via ODBC. If you add an extra driver you can use SQLite 21 22
  • Can also access common tools like sales force
  • Uses “Excel macro language” (doesn't mention VBA)
  • L&F of reports is managed via “drag and drop”, and supports theming,
  • Build data models for exploration of data, i.e. a GUIised data science
  • it stores models in an XMLA format, which can be imported into the other aspects of this product
  • “natural language” support via Cortana
  • Has an “API”, first source was vague, maybe this 23
  • Advertising says “AI visuals "
  • Desktop version can export to PDF natively 24
  • Common components: Power Pivot, Power View, Power Map, Power Q&A.
    • Also has a plugin called “power power” which reports battery consumption, outputting a sound wav file of the word “power”, pitch shifted to the current available charge. the licences for the last item, are called “power”, so you install your “power power”, then a “power power power”, and get a list of audio “power”
    • Apply for a 10% discount to “power power” by sharing a image of your self infront of the power platform with a coffee aka “power juice” mug, branded with the word “power”, and wearing a branded t-shirt, also saying “power”.
    • I wrote that, but one the REAL MSFT video advertorials seems to have a guy wearing “I am a power BI” tshirt.

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