I didn’t travel to the SQL Pass Business Analytics conference this week but I keenly followed what was going on via the #passbac hashtag on Twitter. Seemingly the big announcement was Geoflow Preview for Excel 2013, an add-in for Excel that visualises data over space and time (read more at Public preview of project codename “GeoFlow” for Excel delivers 3D data visualization and storytelling). Geoflow certainly looks compelling at first glance though I must say I found it rather strange that it got top billing given that Microsoft were talking about it at some SharePoint conference five months ago but nonetheless the keynote demo was apparently very impressive indeed. Here’s a screenshot of Geoflow:
I think Geoflow looks great, I really do; the questions I immediately had about it were:
- Can I share my Geoflow’d Excel workbooks and have people view them on SharePoint? Answer: No, there’s no SharePoint collaboration story.
- Is Geoflow part of Power View? Answer: No, its a separate installation.
- OK so I have to install it. I presume then that its available in the Office App Store given that’s the new model for distributing Excel add-ins? Answer: No, you have to download it from Microsoft’s download site.
So the big reveal from Microsoft at this conference was an Excel add-in that does something very very cool but had already been announced, is only a preview, doesn’t fit with Microsoft’s BI collaboration strategy, doesn’t use their modern distribution platform and isn’t part of their Excel-based data visualisation tool. Well thank god I didn’t stump up the cost of travel, accommodation, loss of income and time away from the family for that! Doubtless there were a lot of other good reasons to go to the conference but I would have been going with high expectations of news from Microsoft that is going to be compelling and help me sell Microsoft’s BI offering to my clients – Geoflow doesn’t do that, not by a long chalk.
What I was hoping for, nay expecting, was a concrete announcement regarding Microsoft’s mobile BI strategy. We first saw Power View demonstrated on an iPad at the PASS 2011 conference and I assumed that in the intervening eighteen months they might have built something we could actually install and play around with. Apparently not.
Microsoft are getting killed in this area. At my current client all the management folk walk around with iPads glued to their hands – this is the tool on which they consume information and Microsoft doesn’t have anything for them. I was working for a client two years ago that had just invested in a product called RoamBI because it enabled them to view Reporting Services reports on an iPad. Two years ago for pity’s sake, and Microsoft haven’t released anything mobile-BI-related since!