Fresh off of the Build developer moot with its Windows and Azure focus, Microsoft today announced at its Worldwide Partner Conference that it will bring the Office Store and SharePoint to 22 new markets, and add a new business intelligence tool to its Office 365 service.
I promise that this is more interesting than that sounded.
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By extending the Office and SharePoint stores to new markets, Microsoft is broadening the potential userbase for developers building on those platforms. Given the scale of Office and SharePoint among both consumer and corporate customers, providing developers a chance to reach them all could encourage increased development activity.
That would in turn improve the products by making them more flexible and extendable. Products that may have at one point been static are now platforms, and every platform needs a strong developer community.
In related news, Microsoft is bringing Power BI to the Office 365 cloud-based productivity service. Power BI is a set of tools, largely built on top of Excel, that provide data query, mapping, improved data modeling, and interactive charting. Power Query and Power Map were previously known under the codenames Data Explorer and Geoflow, if you have been keeping score.
Power BI will also provide what Microsoft claims is “natural language query capabilities,” so that customers can ping data and learn from it. A site feature will also be included that will include “workspaces” for individuals to collaborate on data and results. Applications will also be provided for Windows 8, RT, and iPad.
A neat tool, to be sure, but one that does something peculiar: Power BI makes the desktop build of Office more powerful, and therefore more important inside the organizations that use it; Power BI helps keep focus on a key revenue stream for Microsoft. It’s an odd feeling in these mobile-crazy days to imagine the desktop side of computing becoming anything but less relevant.
Power BI will be available as an add-on to current Office 365 customers, and as a stand-alone product for companies that bought their Office software outright. It won’t have an up-front cost, however, as it will launch into preview later this summer.
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