Tableau vs. Power BI: My Two Cents
At the end of August, Tableau picked a fight with Microsoft, posting a slideshow titled “10 Ways Power BI Falls Short” (http://www.tableau.com/compare-tableau-power-bi). Their ten criticisms were:
- Power BI limits visualizations to 3,500 data points, which can lead to missing outliers.
- Relatively simple calculations require learning Microsoft’s DAX scripting language.
- Power BI has limited ability to do trending and forecasting.
- Users are unable to “slice and dice” their visualization by more than two categories.
- Power BI’s filtering capabilities are limited as there is no “keep only” option.
- Users are unable to customize popup content by adding different dimensions and measures or changing formatting. With Power BI, you get what you get.
- Power BI cannot group data together on the fly, forcing you to do your grouping ahead of time in data prep.
- Users cannot use another person’s visualization as a starting point for making their own changes.
- No story-telling capability.
- Power BI does not allow the input of data on-screen, limiting users’ ability to perform what-if analyses.
Of course, Microsoft did not take this sitting down, almost immediately responding with their own top 10 list of features available in Power BI which are missing from Tableau (http://mspoweruser.com/microsoft-responds-to-tableaus-criticism-on-power-bi):
- 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,” according to Microsoft’s emailed response.
Clearly, Tableau is the market leader, but the fact that they are directly calling out Microsoft shows that there is some concern about Power BI. So, how close is Power BI to matching the capabilities of Tableau? How many of the above points are accurate and how many are simply overblown? I’ve seen a few comparisons of the products, but I figured the only way for me to really understand the pros and cons of each package is to analyze the situation myself.
I’ve written a number of blog posts over the past few months and many of the visualizations included in those posts were created using Tableau Public. So what better way to analyze the capabilities of Power BI than to attempt to replicate those visualizations with the Power BI. I should note here that my experience with Power BI is limited; I’ve played with the tool a bit and created some basic visualizations, but I’m definitely nowhere close to being an expert, so much of this analysis will be initial impressions and it’s likely I’ll miss something here or there. If so, feel free to let me know.
At the end of August, Tableau picked a fight with Microsoft, posting a slideshow titled “10 Ways Power BI Falls Short” ( http://www.tableau.com/compare-tableau-power-bi). Their ten criticisms were: Power BI limits visualizations to 3,500 data points, which can lead to missing outliers. Relatively simple calculations require learning Microsoft’s DAX scripting language.
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