The War of Words Heats Up

This week Tableau has come out on the offensive against Power BI with a presentation entitled “10 ways Power BI Falls Short”. Aimed at educating IT and procurement executives, the presentation seeks to explain why companies should spend $999 or more for a Tableau desktop license when Power BI is available for free.
In essence, Tableau’s points are that:
• Power BI limits data visualizations to only 3,500 data points so outliers can be lost when working with large data sets.
• Many of the simplest calculations in Power BI require you to know DAX.
• There’s limited built-in trends and no forecasting (using R within Power BI might address some of this concern, but users would need to learn/know R and it’s no longer a point-and-click platform)
• Users can’t “slice and dice” data by more than two categories.
• Power BI has limited capabilities to customise and format popup content leading to misinterpretations of data.
• Power BI can’t group data on the fly so you will have lots of prep work to do.
• You can’t download other people’s dashboards to use as a starting point for additional anlaysis.
• There is noway in Power BI to tell a narrative with your data – no equivalent of Tableau’s Story Points.
• There is no facility to input data into Power BI so you can’t answer “what-if” questions.

Power BI Hits Back

According to Computer World, Amir Netz, Technical Fellow and Chief Architect of Microsoft Business Intelligence, gave a quick reponse to Tableau’s criticisms. “If you compare any two products, you will always find some capabilities that one product has, and the other is lacking. That said, I was really encouraged when I saw Tableau’s list of differentiators. Tableau had to dig very deep in order to find some differentiators. What they are showing are not really features, but selective differences in the behavior of some features. And even with that list — a few of these gaps have been closed, and many others are in the works.”
In addition to Netz’s response, Microsoft also produced their own list, highlighting the advantages of Power BI over Tableau.
• Out-of-the-box content packs for dozens of data providers, making it easy for business users to connect to data.
• Dashboards that collect important visualizations from reports into what Netz called a “higher-level view”.
• Natural-language queries to explore data and create new visualizations.
• Enterprise-class Saas BI, including connecting to on-premise data.
• A data engine Microsoft says is 10 to 100 times faster than Tableau’s.
• Community-created custom visualizations that use an open visualization platform (Tableau’s platform, Netz pointed out, is closed and proprietary).
• Native integration with Cortana, Excel and real-time data feeds.
• Automated quick insights.
• Integrated ETL (extract, transform and load) tool.
• A data model that supports large numbers of tables and more complex relationships between tables. Tableau does not support more than trivial data models.

Competition is the Consumer’s Friend

Tableau’s list of Power BI’s failings have, of course, given Microsoft a neat to-do list – and vice versa. As Microsoft seek to keep up their frenetic release rate for Power BI, and Tableau seek to defend their No 1 positon in the Gartner Magic Quadrant, hopefully the consumer can only benefit.