Microsoft Gets (Really) Serious About BI

You can't say Microsoft is just now getting serious about business intelligence. After all, its BI software sales grew in excess of 25 percent in 2005 to more than $350 million, according to IDC--more than twice as fast as industry stalwarts Business Objects and Cognos. But the vendor's recent moves to add to its BI software lineup will step up the pressure on the competition.

Microsoft executives detailed the next steps of the company's BI road map at its first business intelligence conference earlier this month. The key announcements revolved around new technology in the next release of the SQL Server database--the foundation for Microsoft's BI stack--and the disclosure that Microsoft acquired SoftArtisans and its OfficeWriter software.

The announcements serve as a prelude to when Microsoft ships PerformancePoint Server 2007 this summer, its offering in the hot market for performance management analysis software.

The next SQL Server release, "Katmai," will provide a number of enhancements to its BI capabilities under the general heading "pervasive insight." The reporting, analysis and data-integration capabilities in the current version of SQL Server will be more tightly integrated with Microsoft's Office 2007 applications.

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That will move Microsoft closer to its goal of "BI for everyone," says Bill Baker, general manager of Office business intelligence applications.