Google Docs and Google Sheets are getting more useful for consumers and enterprises with the addition of third-party tools that enable neat new functionalities.
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"End user expectations are changing for tools," Microsoft's Michael Tejedor told us; "They need something to deal with the meaty workloads that are being required. They want to discover data, clean it up and present it. With Power BI, I can take that BI workbook I've spent time on that I want to share out. This is a cloud service where I can publish up into Office 365 to share that workbook, and I can also share the queries I've created."
You can view those shared queries in any HTML5 browser (which means pretty much any tablet or smartphone); the Windows 8 and iPad apps will also let you interact with the queries, if you want to do your own exploring.
The emphasis is on making it easy to start digging into your data. Power Query remembers the processing you do to clean up a data source like splitting columns, removing duplicates and pivoting or unpivoting data (a feature Microsoft has been asked for regularly), and shows those steps when you look at the data. You can schedule it to import more data at regular intervals, which updates both the figures in your reports and the data model they're based on. So if you introduce new products, they'll show up in reports as soon as they're refreshed.
Having all this as a cloud service means you can save the time it usually takes to set up servers and install software, and get on with the part where you learn about what's actually going on inside your business. It's also interesting to see Microsoft pushing SharePoint as a platform for publishing and sharing "live" data in a way that moves beyond standard Office documents -- something Steve Ballmer highlighted as a key area for the company to work on when he announced the recent Microsoft re-org.
If you want to see what insights you can get into your own business. Power BI will be available as a preview later in August along with the Windows tablet apps (although the Q&A feature won't launch until November and the rest of the tablet apps won't be available until the service launches).