While it is true that data is at the heart of any digital business today, data alone can not provide all of the answers organizations seek. Companies need insights and actionable paths they can take to optimize and adjust the business for maximum results.


With companies collecting more and more data, business intelligence tools are gaining exponential traction. Tableau Software and Power BI are two industry leaders for this sector, with millions of users around the world. 


Recently, Salesforce (the global leader in CRM) acquired Tableau Software (the leading analytics platform in the world) in a $15.7 billion deal. Microsoft also pushed its Power BI tool into its cloud and enterprise offerings, underlying the intense race in the BI solutions market. 


What Is Power BI?

Power BI is a collection of software services, apps, and connectors that work together to turn your unrelated sources of data into coherent, visually immersive, and interactive insights. Your data may be an Excel spreadsheet or a collection of cloud-based and on-premises hybrid data warehouses. Power BI lets you easily connect to your data sources, visualize and discover what’s important, and share that with anyone or everyone you want.


What Is Tableau?

Tableau Software is a data visualization software company. Tableau products query relational databases, online analytical processing cubes, cloud databases, and spreadsheets to generate graph-type data visualizations. The products can also extract, store, and retrieve data from an in-memory data engine.


Power BI supports a desktop application called Power BI Desktop, an online SaaS (Software as a Service) service called the Power BI service, plus Power BI mobile apps for Windows, iOS, and Android devices.


The three elements (Power BI Desktop, the service, and the mobile apps) are designed to let you create, share, and consume business insights in a way that serves you and your role most effectively.


Check out our Hidden Tips and Tricks for Using Tableau Blog Post


A fourth element, Power BI Report Server, allows you to publish Power BI reports to an on-premises report server after creating them in Power BI Desktop. 


Tableau also allows users to use multiple platforms to access their products. Users can choose between Tableau Desktop, Tableau Online, and Tableau Mobile for their analytics needs. Tableau Mobile is your window into your organization’s Tableau Server or Tableau Online site, making it easy to keep a pulse on your data.


Product Pricing

When it comes to pricing, there is a clear difference between the two solutions. 


Power BI Pro is offered at $9.99/month per user. It is fully managed by Microsoft, and you get self-service and modern BI in the cloud, collaboration, publishing, sharing, and ad hoc analysis. 


If you need advanced analytics capabilities, Microsoft offers Power BI Premium at $4,995/month per user. You get Enterprise BI, big data analytics, cloud and on-premises reporting, advanced administration and deployment controls, dedicated cloud compute, and storage resources. The premium version allows any user to consume Power BI content. 


On the other hand, Tableau starts at $70/month for individuals using Tableau Creator, which includes Tableau Desktop, Tableau Prep Builder, and one creator license of Tableau Server. For $35/month you can get Tableau Explorer which includes one Explorer license of Tableau Server getting Tableau Viewer for $12/month which includes one Viewer license of Tableau Server. 


Tableau also offers an Embedded analytics option for those who want to deliver powerful analytics to their customers without having to build them. Tableau utilizes a robust set of APIs to integrate and manage your analytics while providing a customized, unique experience for your customers. Pricing is not available for this feature though. If companies are interested, they need to contact Tableau and get a personalized offer. 


Product Data Capacity

When it comes to Data Capacity with Power BI, all users have a maximum of 10 GB of data storage. Users with a Power BI Pro license can create workspaces with a maximum of 10 GB of data storage each. Included in your data storage are your own datasets and Excel reports, and those items that someone has shared with you. Datasets are any of the data sources you’ve uploaded or connected to. These data sources include Power BI Desktop files and Excel workbooks you’re using.


Tableau on the other hand is capable of handling billions of rows of data. Although it technically has a max capacity, Tableau should be able to handle as much data as your data source can handle. 


Where Artificial Intelligence Comes In

Tableau introduced a series of AI capabilities such as Ask Data for Tableau Server and Online. With Ask Data, you can use natural language to ask questions and instantly get a response right in Tableau. Answers come in the form of rich data visualizations and don’t require the need to understand the structure of your data so you can gain answers faster.


There is also another feature called Explain Data which helps accelerate your analytics by leveraging the power of AI to explain specific points in your data. Based on advanced statistical models, you are presented with a focused set of explanations so you avoid spending time chasing answers that aren’t there.


Tableau not only connects to file outputs from MATLAB, R, SAS, and SPSS as data sources but supports direct integration with R and Python. Run code directly inside Tableau, as well as visualize and manipulate model results from predictive services such as Rserve and TabPy.


Power BI has also been using AI through capabilities such as natural language, which enables users to get answers by asking questions in plain English or Quick Insights, which automatically finds patterns in data. Power BI users also get capabilities such as image recognition and text analytics, or key driver analysis which helps users understand what influences key business metrics.


Key driver analysis helps you understand what drives an outcome. It reasons over your data, ranks those things that matter, and surfaces those key drivers. 


In Power BI, business analysts will now be able to build their own machine learning models without writing a single line of code. We’re using the automated machine learning feature in Azure Machine Learning, but instead of targeting developers or data scientists, we’ve simplified it and made it broadly accessible for common use cases. This means that when an analyst builds a machine learning model in Power BI, it does all the heavy lifting by selecting the best algorithm and features with just a few clicks.


If you’re interested in making AI work for your business, check out our blog post on the topic.


Product Features

When it comes to the range of visualization and integration, Tableau definitely has the upper hand. 


Tableau is the more fully featured product since it is more established in the market. This is why it’s the “gold standard” when it comes to BI tools. Everything from community support, deployment, data exploration, and sharing seems more polished with Tableau. Check out the full list of Tableau features here. 


However, both products offer a plethora of features, and Power BI is far from having a poor offering.  


Power BI is deeply linked with Microsoft’s offerings. It is integrated with Office 365 and Microsoft is pushing the solution as the go-to data viz from their cloud services. However, Power BI was considerably lacking when compared to Tableau, Microsoft has been rapidly closing the gap. Check out the full list of Power BI features here. 


Integrations for Power BI & Tableau

Tableau partners with some of the leading technology companies in the data and analytics industry, including Cognetik. Tableau partner tools work seamlessly with Tableau so people can collect, store, transform, and connect to the data that is important to them. From databases to ETL, to predictive analytics and more, Tableau’s wide range of Technology Partners help you and your analytics investments.


There are hundreds of integrations to choose from with Tableau. You can check the full list here.  


Power BI also offers a lot of integrations. Although the integration list is not as comprehensive as Tableau’s, there is still a significant number of options for users to choose from. Check the full list here



Both Power BI and Tableau can provide excellent data visualization capabilities. It depends on the organization’s size, budget, the ecosystem in place, and goal of the analytics initiative. 


For big organizations, with ample data requirements, Tableau is definitely a complete solution, offering vast integration and amazing dashboarding, automation, and visualization capabilities. 


However, Tableau can also be more expensive. If your organization does not need to process billions of rows of data, Power BI could prove to be a simpler (and cheaper) choice. Power BI also integrates very well with the Microsoft ecosystem. If you’re already using Azure or Office 365 with your company, Power BI is extremely easy to set up and use. 


Both tools are more than able to provide data visualization capabilities for almost any complexity level. If you want a personalized expert opinion regarding your analytics implementation and data requirements, you can reach out to us here

About the author

Sebastian Stan

Sebastian is a journalist and digital strategist with years of experience in the news industry, social media, content creation and management, and digital analytics.

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