Its almost been lost in the antitrust settlement, but Microsoft early this week made a rare addition to its Office application suite, the $179 Data Analyzer for ease-of- use data manipulation for business intelligence.
But you wont find it by rushing down to your neighborhood software store and buying the latest version of Office. This is a stand-alone application that works alongside Offices Word, Excel and Powerpoint. The graphs, charts and reports that you create using Data Analyzer can be saved to Excel or Powerpoint for use with those applications, said David Jaffe, lead project manager.
"Data Analyzer is part of the Office family, but it doesnt ship with Office. It addresses knowledge workers," said Jaffe.
Data Analyzer can now be purchased at www.microsoft.com and through Microsofts channel distribution partners, such as Insight (www.insight.com) or CDW (www.cdw.com). It may even be in your neighborhood store as a separate application, although it is aimed primarily at corporate purchasers, Jaffe said.
Microsoft is aiming Data Analyzer at decision makers lower in the organization than the typical high level business analyst, data miner or data warehouse user. "More and more individuals further down in the corporation are becoming empowered to make decisions. Data analysis is something they do occasionally, and they need tools to get their job done," noted Francois Ajenstat, technical product manager.
Ajenstat said the new application "comes in to fill a void" beneath the power data mining tools sold by Informatica and other vendors but above the capabilities of Excel spreadsheets and simple data retrieval tools.
It can offer multiple views of a data set, illustrating the data in variously colored bars or pie charts. It can retrieve data from relational databases using online analytical processing (OLAP), presenting a desired view of that data back to the end user.
"It can query a terabyte of data and get a subset of results optimized for the desktop," noted Ajenstat.
"You can view different dimensions. You can assign a bar length and color representation very easily. You can highlight what the data actually means," he noted.
Data Analyzer works with various relational systems but is integrated with Microsofts SQL Server database and makes use of its OLAP Server. It runs under Windows 98, Windows ME, Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000 and Windows XP. A 300 MHz Pentium III processor and 128 Megabytes of memory are listed as recommended system requirements.
"We targeted a user that other folks havent targeted yet," said Ajenstat of the data mining/data analysis market.