Gemini is now PowerPivot

The project codenamed Gemini has an official name now: PowerPivot. The complete name should be “PowerPivot for Excel 2010”, but PowerPivot is simpler. I didn’t like that name yesterday, but today it seems better.

Microsoft announced this name at the Microsoft SharePoint Conference 2009 held in Las Vegas. As usual, demos are good and people are impressed. But, remember, this is a SharePoint conference, not a SQL Server (or Business Intelligence one). What I mean is that many of the demos shown this week are not so different from what have been shown 4 or 5 years ago. And, guess what? Microsoft never finished the job of the vision where UDM (Unified Dimensional Model) should have been the center of the universe and every reporting query should have posted to this central repository of information.

Today, the solution is giving power (using PowerPivot) to the end user, integrating the visualization with every single flavor of Office 2010 (Visio included!). You know, only SQL Server 2008 R2 has a Reporting Services component that makes it possible to display data in maps (something I did in 2000 with MapPoint – why they didn’t implemented a simpler way to integrate geographical data of a cube in MapPoint 8-9 years ago?). A lot of things could have been possible in 2002, or at least in 2005, or with Excel 2007, but unfortunately many times I had to abandon a possible way to show data just because there was the lack of the “last mile” to show data. And this created a lack of credibility in the Microsoft client tools for BI.

So, to be honest, today I’m skeptical. I don’t want to deceive my customers showing wonderful demos just to get customer complains when something will not work and MS Support answer will be “it’s not a bug, it’s by design”. This time I’ll wait and I will not risk my face. Probably, I’m wrong – but, you know, I don’t see any evidence that grants me that this time things will be different. We still have a big wave of new Office products, the next one will be in 2013 or something like that and if something is not good in 2010, you will have to wait 3 years or you will have to write some work-around just to make your solution working. I mean, I can survive to a problem in Excel where the color of a border doesn’t display well, but my customer will not be so happy if the drillthrough will not work as expected (it’s just an example – not something that has real issues).

My hope is that PowerPivot will have a shorter release cycle, with a v2 in 2011 and a v3 in 2012 (or they could be deployed with Office 2010 Service Packs if there is some version dependency). But, at this time, we don’t have any information about that. Technically, it should be possible to do, because it’s an AddIn separated from Excel codebase. Thus, it’s a “political” decision. I hope that a clear roadmap for PowerPivot will be announced. Shorter release cycle. Otherwise, too many missing feature will delay its adoption until (at least) the next version of Office.

Microsoft, please, don’t repeat the same mistakes.