Just about two years ago I discovered this remarkable tool called PowerPivot and was blown away by two important facts. First this add-in to Excel 2010 allowed me to manipulate millions of rows of data that came from a variety of different data sources to create analysis tables and charts in mere hours that would have required days of programming in other tools prior to that. Second the tool was a free download from Microsoft.
PowerPivot had some of its roots in the old Pivot table capabilities of Microsoft Excel that goes back over a decade and several versions. For that reason, it was relatively easy to get started using it. As I was learning how to use it, I started doing SQL Saturday presentations on Pivot tables from the simple PIVOT command in SQL Server to the Excel basic pivot tables of earlier versions to the latest PowerPivot features. Over the first few months, I began to emphasize more of the PowerPivot features as I explored them and before long I was looking for different ways I could use PowerPivot in my everyday analysis.
In the fall of 2011, I was at a speaker reception the night before the Orlando SQL Saturday and ran into someone named Rob Collie. I did know him at the time. We were both going to give PowerPivot presentations the next day and Rob wanted to make sure that we did not walk over each other’s presentation. As we talked, I found out that he was a prior Microsoft employee who worked on the Excel team. I was impressed enough with his discussion of the inner workings of the PowerPivot engine and his enthusiasm for the product that I came to believe that PowerPivot could be a BI game changer in Microsoft’s grand scheme of bringing BI to the average business.
Since then I’ve written quite a few blogs about using PowerPivot, both the 2010 version for Excel 2010 and the version for Office 2013. In fact, over the last year, most of my public presentations have been about PowerPivot and the Tabular model of SSAS in SQL Server 2012 which looks and acts very much like PowerPivot itself. I even presented a PowerPivot/Tabular model presentation on the DAX language at the 2012 PASS Summit in Redmond. I’ve been telling everyone how great PowerPivot was (and still is), but then the bad news hit.
Microsoft was pulling PowerPivot from the standard office SKU for Office 2013. After making such a big deal about the fact that the latest version of Excel for 2013 would include not only PowerPivot but also Power View right out of the box (with the possible exception of having to turn on the COM add-in), I was stunned to hear that these tools would not be available in the final standard edition rollout of Excel 2013. In fact, I found out that it would only appear in the Professional Plus edition or in the Office 365 subscription version. After telling all of these people how great this free tool was, I now felt betrayed by having the product yanked out of reach by most potential Office 2013 users who will only have the standard SKU.
One of the first things I did when I heard this was to go off to Rob Collie’s blog to see what he was saying about this situation. He wasn’t pleased either, but he had an opinion as to why it happened. I’ll let you read his blog at: http://www.powerpivotpro.com/2013/02/hey-who-moved-my-powerpivot-2013-cheese/. Rob’s basic premise is that the Office team at Microsoft decided to put PowerPivot and PowerView only in the Professional Pro SKU to add value to that SKU which previously was only differentiated by the inclusion of Microsoft Access which has greatly dropped in popularity over the years, especially since SQL Server Express can be downloaded for free.
So today I’m in Tampa giving a presentation on the DAX language for PowerPivot and the SSAS Tabular model at a SQL Saturday. What can I tell them? On possibility is that they should stay on Microsoft Office 2010 for which they can still download the 2010 version of PowerPivot. For some people, that may work. If they work for a company that has a volume license with Microsoft, they could still get the 2013 Office SKU and will be able to start using PowerPivot and Power View right out of the box. But what abou the rest of us?
Interestingly, there is a guest post on Rob’s site from Ken Puls who explains how to buy PowerPivot 2013 using a $30 Volume Licensing Workaround. The link to this blog is: http://www.powerpivotpro.com/2013/02/guest-post-from-ken-puls-how-to-buy-powerpivot-2013-including-the-30-volume-licensing-workaround/. (Sorry for the long link, but I wanted to make sure you see the full link.) This trick seems a little too good to be true, but it is based on the fact that to get a volume license, you only need to buy 5 qualifying licenses of any Microsoft products including something like the Microsoft DVD Playback Pack for Windows Vista Business which costs about $7.00. Then you should be able to get a copy of Professional Plus through volume licensing.
Still, it seems like too much work and I suspect that most developers will not want to play that game. On the other hand, if this begins to limit the use of PowerPivot and Power View by corporate America and especially medium to small business, this could also result in eventual marginalization of what could have been a great product.
In my comment on Rob Collie’s site, I remind the reader of the way Access was hyped during the beta of SharePoint 2010. The beta versions promised a way to migrate your Access applications to SharePoint to solve many of the concern with Access applications like security, multiple and different copies, multi-user limitations, etc. But when SharePoint 2010 was finally released, they moved the ability to migrate Access to the Enterprise edition which effectively eliminated this feature from most SharePoint users who only use standard or foundation versions. As a result, three years later, this feature is practically dead whereas it could have been a game changer moving countless Access applications to a more secure SharePoint platform.
In any case, I will continue to support PowerPivot and hope that Microsoft and the Office team re-consider their decision to hide PowerPivot in the Pro Plus SKU. What are your thoughts?
C’ya next time.