Microsoft doesn’t play the (traditional) BI client game

I know, the title is provocative. It’s intentional. I’d like to get feedback about my opinion.

My point is simple (but not so short!). PowerPivot (which, you know, I like) and self-service BI are the new buzzwords for BI in Redmond. However, there are mature and solid technologies out there (read Analysis Services) which simply don’t have a correspondent client technology provided by Microsoft that takes advantage of all the SSAS capabilities. I know, I’m not talking about BI for the masses, I’m talking about a more “traditional” BI, that can be still a barrier to Microsoft technologies penetration in some companies. In fact, who has a solution based on another technology might be unlikely to migrate everything just to deliver some report to more users. Right or not, this is what happens in the real world.

Now, if only I had know that MS didn’t had plan to write the “final” BI client in 2004… You know, the day MS presented WPF (it was called Avalon at that time) it was clear that the new generation BI client tool had to be written using that technology. And to me it was obvious that someone were writing that killer application. Five, six years later, nothing happened. Microsoft bought ProClarity in the worst move ever. They scared potential investor in the BI client tool and they failed in producing a client tool which was independent from the Office product line. If only I had know that… yes, I would’ve looked for VC to produce that killer app. Today, it would be a game over.

Instead, nothing really important happened. Yes, if you have Office 2010 you can use Excel 2010 that fixed some bugs of Excel 2007 and it has cool new features and can be published with SharePoint 2010. Amazing. But, I know a lot of companies where delivering SharePoint 2010 just for BI is something that nobody will consider. Finally, Microsoft provides a complete set of technologies to those companies who want to provide BI for the masses. But our advanced users doesn’t have very much. PowerPivot is very cool for all these databases they don’t have in an OLAP cube. But if they already have a cube, they lack of an advanced client tool.

To tell the true, several new tools emerged in the last few years, and I’ve seen very very good piece of software. But, no killer app, sorry – no WPF-Silverlight powerful-animated-fast client tool out there (if someone wrote it, please ring the bell!). Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe the market is too small for “traditional BI”. I don’t know.

But I know that Microsoft is not playing the BI client game out of Office. Otherwise, it wouldn’t make sense that Jamie McLennan left Microsoft for a newco (founded just two months ago with VC investments) that will work in the Data Mining field using Microsoft techologies. What else if not a “client tool” for Data Mining?

Today I’m much less worried than some years ago suggesting alternative (to Excel) client tools for BI, created by third parties (that usually are Microsoft partners, anyway). In fact, I still don’t see the killer app. Today, we have the technology foundation for building Minority Report style BI tools. But, where is the product? I still don’t see it, and I really don’t believe (at this point) that I will see it from Microsoft.