MicroStrategy Desktop BI software now free

MicroStrategy dashboard

Sample MicroStrategy dashboard

Credit: MicroStrategy

BI vendor MicroStrategy said today that its Desktop software is now free, adding to the affordable self-service BI landscape that includes Tableau Public, Microsoft Power BI and others. MicroStrategy Desktop 10.5 is available for download at https://www.microstrategy.com/us/desktop.

Customers who currently use MicroStrategy Web "can seamlessley connect MicroStrategy Desktop to their existing projects," the company said in its announcement. "Additionally, by downloading their dashboards from the server to MicroStrategy Desktop, MicroStrategy Web users can work locally and offline." MicroStrategy Web is still a paid product.

The desktop version of the software can connect to multiple types of data sources from spreadsheets to Hadoop for data visualization, including some GIS capabilities from Esri. There's also an add-on R Integration Pack.

Why free now? Hugh Owen, senior vice president for product marketing, told me it was part of the company's vision of "intelligence everywhere" and that, once more people in an organization used the software for free on the desktop, some organizations would likely become interested in a path to a paid enterprise deployment. In other words, much like companies that bank their business model on open-source software, MicroStrategy believes that servers with user management, security and other features baked in will be attractive enough for organizations to purchase to complement and scale use of free desktop software. MicroStrategy sells server, cloud and mobile platforms.

My guess was that Microsoft's free Power BI platform is pressuring others in the market including MicroStrategy to make their products more affordable, but Owen disagreed. "I don't think it's a particular driver for us. I think they tend to play in a slightly different space than we do," he said in a telephone interview. Still, it's hard to ignore a competitor like Microsoft making a play for part of your customer base (Tableau certainly hasn't).

Other platforms such as Tableau and Qlik already have free desktop versions available, although often don't always connect to as many types of data sources as the paid versions, aren't set up to share data within an organization, or typically have other limitations. As far as I can tell, MicroStrategy Desktop isn't set up for elegant sharing within organizations beyond each user downloading his or her own copy of a workbook -- that's where the server or cloud would come in.

One feature lacking in the free MicroStrategy Desktop 10.5 edition, at least for now, is the ability to publish a data visualization to the Web and then embed it on another website, such as can be done with Tableau Public and Microsoft Power BI's publish to Web. MicroStrategy did unveil a Dashboard Gallery where users can post and share their dashboards, as well as download someone else's file to import as a starting point for their own work; but that's not currently intended to be a site for stand-alone or embedded Web visuals.

If you want to find out more, MicroStrategy will broadcast a 1-hour webinar, The New MicroStrategy Desktop: Analytical insights in the hands of every user, on Nov. 2 at 12 pm EST, as well as free training classes in 29 locations (several US classes are already filled).

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