Microsoft Power BI

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Microsoft Power BI
Initial release11 July 2011; 12 years ago (2011-07-11)
Stable release
December 2023 Update (2.124.581.0) / December 2023; 3 months ago (2023-12)[1]
Operating systemMicrosoft Windows
TypeData visualization
Business intelligence

Microsoft Power BI is an interactive data visualization software product developed by Microsoft with a primary focus on business intelligence.[2] It is part of the Microsoft Power Platform. Power BI is a collection of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to turn various sources of data into static and interactive data visualizations. Data may be input by reading directly from a database, webpage, PDF, or structured files such as spreadsheets, CSV, XML, JSON,[3] XLSX, and SharePoint.[4]


Power BI provides cloud-based BI (business intelligence) services, known as "Power BI Services", along with a desktop-based interface, called "Power BI Desktop". It provides data warehouse capabilities including data preparation, data mining, and interactive dashboards.[5] In March 2016, Microsoft released an additional service called Power BI Embedded on its Azure cloud platform.[6] One main differentiator of the product is the ability to load custom visualizations.


This application was originally conceived by Thierry D'Hers and Amir Netz of the SQL Server Reporting Services team at Microsoft.[7] It was originally designed by Ron George in the summer of 2010 and named Project Crescent.[8] Project Crescent was initially available for public download on 11 July 2011, bundled with SQL Server Codename Denali.[9] Later renamed Power BI it was then unveiled by Microsoft in September 2013 as Power BI for Office 365.[10] The first release of Power BI was based on the Microsoft Excel-based add-ins: Power Query, Power Pivot and Power View. With time, Microsoft also added many additional features like question and answers, enterprise-level data connectivity, and security options via Power BI Gateways.[5] Power BI was first released to the general public on 24 July 2015. It has several versions for desktop, web, and mobile app.[11]

On 14 April 2015, Microsoft announced that they had acquired the Canadian company Datazen, to "complement Power BI, our cloud-based business analytics service, rounding out our mobile capabilities for customers who need a mobile BI solution implemented on-premises and optimized for SQL Server." [12] Most of the 'visuals' in Power BI started life as Datazen visuals.

The software-reviewing company Gartner confirmed Microsoft as leader in the "2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platform" as a result of the capabilities of the Power BI platform.[13] This represented the 12th consecutive year of recognition of Microsoft as leading vendor in the magic quadrant category (beginning three years before the tool was even created).[14]

Key components[edit]

Example of a screenshot from the software

Key components of the Power BI ecosystem are as follows:

Power BI Desktop[15]
The Windows desktop-based application for PCs, primarily for designing and publishing reports to the service.
Power BI Service
The SaaS-based (software as a service) online service. This was formerly known as Power BI for Office 365, now referred to as, or simply Power BI.
Power BI Mobile Apps
The Power BI Mobile apps for Android and iOS devices, as well as for Windows phones and tablets.
Power BI Gateway
Gateways are used to sync external data in and out of Power BI and are required for automated refreshes. In enterprise mode, it can also be used by Microsoft Power Automate (previously called Flows) and PowerApps in Office 365.
Power BI Embedded
Power BI REST API can be used to build dashboards and reports into the custom applications that serves Power BI users, as well as non-Power BI users.
Power BI Report Server
An on-premises Power BI is a reporting product for companies that choose not to store data in the cloud-based Power BI Service.
Power BI Premium
Capacity-based offering that includes flexibility to publish reports broadly across an enterprise without requiring recipients to be licensed individually per user. This provides greater scale and performance than shared capacity in the Power BI Service.
Power BI Visuals Marketplace
A marketplace of custom visuals and R-powered visuals.[16]
Power BI Dataflow[17]
A Power Query implementation in the cloud that can be used for data transformations to make a common Power BI Dataset, which can then can be made available for report developers through Microsoft's Common Data Service. For example, it can be used as an alternative to doing transformations in SSAS, and may ensure that several report developers use data that has been transformed in a similar way.
Power BI Dataset
A Power BI Dataset can work as a collection of data for use in Power BI reports, and can either be connected to or imported into a Power BI Report.[18] A dataset can be connected to and get its source data through one or more dataflows.
Power BI Datamart
Within Power BI, the datamart is a container which combines Power BI Dataflows, datasets and a type of data mart or data warehouse (in the form of an Azure SQL Database) into the same interface. The interface then has the possibility of being a single place for administration of both the ETL layer (Dataflow), an intermediary data mart (with for instance storage of star schemas, dimension tables, fact tables), and finally the modelling layer (dataset).
Power BI Datahub
A data hub for discovering Power BI datasets within an organization's Power BI Service so that datasets may be reused from one central location. It offers details on the things as well as an access point for working with them, such as building reports on top of them, utilizing them with Excel's Analyze feature, accessing settings, controlling permissions, and more.[19]

Power Query[edit]

Data importation and transform mapping for Power BI models and reports is conducted in Power Query. Common data sources include MySQL and Salesforce.


Power BI has many different licenses depending on use.

User licenses[edit]

Some common user licenses are free, pro and premium. Free users must be part of an organization with a Power BI license. They can consume reports, and can also build, but not publish. In practice, creators need at least a pro license in order to publish reports. Premium users can publish like pro, but also have more features available for developing.

Workspace licenses[edit]

Premium capacity refers to the license of the workspace, not the licenses of its users or creators. Also, access to several features, functionalities, and kinds of content that are exclusively accessible through premium is made possible with a Power BI Premium per user license.[20] Premium per user is a special workspace license which was added in November 2020,[21] and can be a more affordable alternative to premium workspace licenses for organizations with few users which have advanced analytical requirements.[21]

Paginated reports[edit]

Paginated reports for Power BI, which can be built with Power BI Report Builder, are a special type of SSRS reports with pagination formatting which can give better control of the layout of reports which need to be printed to paper or PDF. This is in contrast to regular Power BI reports which instead are optimized for presentation or interactivity and exploration on a screen. Paginated reports can, as of 2022, not be made with the regular Power BI Desktop report builder software. Instead, the standalone Power BI Report Builder has to be used, which can be viewed as a descendant of the SQL Server Reporting Services (SSRS) Microsoft Report Builder for Microsoft SQL Server introduced in 2004. It is also similar to the Report Designer in SQL Server Data Tools.

Power BI Paginated reports are saved in the Report Definition Language (.rdl file format), as opposed to the .pbix file of regular Power BI reports. The RDL format is based on XML, and was proposed by Microsoft as a benchmark for defining reports with SSRS

Paginated reports may be more suitable than regular Power BI reports, and may include printing of invoices or other repeated printouts of reports with a similar layout but different content, or for printing reports where text would otherwise overflow due to being cut off by scrollbars.


  1. ^ "What's new in the latest Power BI update".
  2. ^ "Bring your data to life with Microsoft Power BI". Microsoft. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  3. ^ "List of all Power Query connectors - Power Query". 31 March 2023. Retrieved 11 July 2023.
  4. ^ "How to Design Power BI Dashboard: A Step-by-Step Guide". 5 August 2023. Retrieved 24 September 2023.
  5. ^ a b "Magic Quadrant for Business Intelligence and Analytics Platforms". Gartner, Inc. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  6. ^ Caldwell, Nick (31 March 2016). "Embed the wow of Power BI in your applications with Microsoft Power BI Embedded!". Microsoft. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  7. ^ "A Glimpse at Project Crescent". Microsoft BI Blog. Microsoft. 9 November 2010. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  8. ^ "Data Visualization Done Right: Project Crescent". Microsoft BI Blog. Microsoft. 9 November 2010. Retrieved 29 June 2017.
  9. ^ Unkroth, Kay (12 July 2011). "Announcing Microsoft SQL Server Code Name "Denali" Community Technology Preview 3 (CTP3)". Microsoft. Retrieved 28 May 2019.
  10. ^ "Office 365 Gets Colorful 3D Charts, Natural Language Search". PC Mag India. ZiffDavis, LLC PCMag India. 26 September 2013. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  11. ^ The Power BI Team, Microsoft (10 July 2015). "Announcing Power BI general availability coming July 24th". Microsoft Power BI Blog. Microsoft. Retrieved 4 May 2016.
  12. ^ Hathi, Kamal (14 April 2015). "Microsoft acquires mobile business intelligence leader Datazen". Microsoft, Inc. Retrieved 10 January 2022.
  13. ^ Research, Gartner (11 February 2019). "2019 Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms". Gartner, Inc. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  14. ^ "Microsoft announces the 2019 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Analytics and Business Intelligence Platforms". Microsoft, Inc. Retrieved 11 February 2019.
  15. ^ Hyman, Jack (8 February 2022). Microsoft Power BI for dummies. NJ: wiley. pp. 47–62. ISBN 978-1-119-82487-9.
  16. ^ "Power BI Custom visuals on AppSource". Microsoft AppSource. Microsoft. 25 December 2017. Retrieved 25 December 2017.
  17. ^ Creating a dataflow - Power BI | Microsoft Docs
  18. ^ Get started, Power BI (3 October 2022). "Basic concepts for designers in the Power BI service". Retrieved 4 April 2022.
  19. ^ paulinbar. "Data discovery using the data hub - Power BI". Retrieved 11 March 2023.
  20. ^ kfollis. "Power BI service features by license type - Power BI". Retrieved 27 November 2022.
  21. ^ a b Meet Power BI Premium per user element61

Further reading[edit]

  • Gunnarsson, Ásgeir; Johnson, Michael (2020). Pro Microsoft Power BI Administration: Creating a Consistent, Compliant, and Secure Corporate Platform for Business Intelligence. Apress. ISBN 978-1484265666.

External links[edit]