Microsoft Shifts Focus to Power BI Apps with New Premium Offering

Microsoft today announced plans to offer a new Power BI Premium subscription plan, while also previewing a new Power BI apps sharing capability.

The two additions to Microsoft's business intelligence visualization service are somewhat related. End users accessing the new Power BI apps will either need to have existing Power BI Pro licensing in place or they'll need the new Power BI Premium licensing.

Power BI Premium Licensing
Microsoft expects that its new Power BI Premium subscription offering will reach general availability "late in the second quarter of 2017," according to its announcement.

Currently, Microsoft's Power BI pricing page does not show the new Premium plan costs. The differences between the Pro plan and the Premium plan seem to be associated with access and scale. The Premium plan offers:

  • Ability of Pro users to "publish reports broadly" without requiring recipients to be licensed
  • The ability to apply local capacity controls or let Microsoft maintain the "dedicated hardware" in its datacenters
  • Ability to publish Power BI apps to "specific people, groups or an entire organization"
  • Ability to use Power BI Report Server on premises, which adds control over published reports "within the boundaries of the organization's firewall"

The arrival of Power BI Premium licensing also coincides with a consolidation change for developers. Microsoft is bringing its Power BI Embedded service for software developers into the Power BI service to deliver "one API surface." With this change, Microsoft's announcement advocated a gradual move by developers to Power BI Premium:

Moving forward we encourage those interested in embedding Power BI in their apps to start with Power BI Desktop and move to deployment with Power BI Premium. Existing apps built on Power BI Embedded will continue to be supported.

Power BI Apps
Power BI apps are described in Microsoft's announcement as an "evolution and simplification" of organizational content packs. These content packs are a means for combining "dashboards, reports, Excel workbooks, and datasets" and then publishing them into a team-shared library.

Instead of favoring the content packs approach, Microsoft is highlighting the Power BI apps method of content distribution. It's seen as a way to address the needs of organizations having a large number of business users.

Power BI apps get installed from Microsoft AppSource. The apps will work with Android, iOS and Windows devices. As noted, users of the apps either need a Pro license or a Premium license.

Power BI apps were described today as being at the preview stage. However, Microsoft's announcement indicated that it is rolling out the Power BI apps capability incrementally "over the next 24 hours." When available, Power BI apps will show up in the Power BI portal.

Microsoft also described future Power BI apps roadmap plans. It will let users create workspaces for apps that won't automatically create Office 365 groups. In addition, Microsoft is working on the ability to specify group members for apps. An ability to push apps to end users is also in the works. It'll be possible to prevent incomplete dashboards from being published. Copying between workspaces also will be added. The ability to subscribe to e-mails and alerts is planned.

Lastly, Microsoft is planning the ability to share apps with business partners using the Azure Active Directory Business to Business (B2B) service.

Changes to the Free Power BI Service
Microsoft also announced coming restrictions to the Power BI Free service that will take effect on June 1.

The Free service is for personal use, according to Microsoft. It has capabilities similar to the Pro service, and Microsoft claims that's causing confusion. Therefore, Power BI Free service users will lose sharing capabilities, starting next month. Here's how Microsoft described the change:

Going forward, we will improve the free service to have the same functionality as Power BI Pro, but will limit sharing and collaboration features to only Power BI Pro users. Users of the free Power BI service will benefit from access to all data sources, increased workspace storage limits, and higher refresh and streaming rates. These changes will be effective June 1, and you can read more on the Power BI Community. Power BI Desktop continues to be available for free.

Under Microsoft's new plan, Power BI Free users will lose capabilities such as "peer-to-peer dashboard sharing," even as they gain capabilities such as a "1 GB workbook size limit." Those sorts of details are outlined in Microsoft's FAQ publication.

Eligible active users of the Power BI Free service will be offered a "free 12-month extended trial of Power BI Pro" starting next month, Microsoft's Power BI Community blog post explained.

About the Author

Kurt Mackie is senior news producer for 1105 Media's Converge360 group.


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