What is Power BI?

Power BI is a self-service BI tool consisting of 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 Excel spreadsheets, ERP (SAP, Dynamics), CRM, internal-external databases or a collection of cloud-based and on-premises hybrid data warehouses. 
These no-code or low-code tools (part of Microsoft 365 E5 enterprise licenses) are easy to handle and provide available info anytime-anywhere-any device (pc-mac-smartphone-tablet)  

The main elements of Power BI 

Power BI consists of:

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

A common flow of work in Power BI begins by connecting to data sources and building a report in Power BI Desktop. You then publish that report from Power BI Desktop to the Power BI service, and share it so end users in the Power BI service and mobile devices can view and interact with the report. This workflow is common, and shows how the three main Power BI elements complement one another.

Power BI most common capabilities  

Following is a conceptual illustration* of the most common capabilities:

Microsoft Power BI

How is Power BI Priced? 

Power BI comes in three levels – Pro, Premium per user and Premium per capacity

Power BI Pro*

€8.40 / $9.99 Per user/month

*Included with Office 365 Enterprise E5

  • Data collaboration 
  • Data governance 
  • Incremental data refresh (up to a maximum of 8 automatic refreshes per day) 
  • Cloud service 
  • Data security and encryption 
  • Standard and big data prep and ETL 
  • Analyze data in Microsoft Excel 
  • Embed content in other interfaces like Teams, SharePoint, and other SaaS applications 
  • View and interact with Power BI content through the Power BI mobile app for iOS, Android, and Windows 
  • Maximum storage: 10 G per user

Power BI Premium per user

€16.90 / $20.0 Per user/month*

*For customers who already have a Power BI Pro license either purchased standalone or through E5, the price will be just an additional $10 per user, per month

The Premium plan is an extension of Power BI Pro for higher data set size and higher frequency of data refresh, and additionally:

  • Automated machine learning (AutoML) 
  • Azure Cognitive Services including sentiment analysis, key phrase extraction, language detection and image tagging
  • Pixel perfect paginated reports 
  •  Larger models support, trillions of rows of data.


Power BI Premium per capacity

from  €4,212 /$4,995 Per capacity/month

Power BI Premium consists of capacity in the Power BI service exclusively allocated to each organization. 

The capacity is supported by dedicated hardware fully managed by Microsoft. Organizations can choose to apply their capacity broadly, or allocate it to assigned workspaces based on the number of users, workload needs, or other factors—and scale up or down as requirements change.

Definitions and Terminology 

The most prominent components* of the Power BI suite of tools are defined as follows: 


Power BI


The ecosystem as a whole which includes a collection of software services, applications, and connectors that facilitate the creation of reports and dashboards and the visual analysis of information.


Power BI Desktop


Power BI Desktop is a desktop-based authoring tool of choice for connecting, transforming, and modeling data for creating interactive reports. There are two Power BI Desktop executables available: one which is updated monthly and aligns with the Power BI Service, and one which aligns with the capabilities of Power BI Report Server and is updated less frequently (approx. 3x/year). Files produced by both versions work with Power BI Service. Power BI Desktop saves reports as files in the .pbix format.


Power BI Service


The Power BI Service is a cloud-based service that supports collaboration, sharing, enterprise distribution, creation of dashboards, and additional functionality such as alerts. Online resources may refer to it as:

  • PowerBI.com
  • Power BI cloud service
  • Power BI web portal
  • Power BI web service
  • Power BI site


Power BI App Workspace


A Power BI App Workspace is a collaboration area within the Power BI Service. An App Workspace is a distinct area, separate from My Workspace, which is dedicated to a specific team, subject area, or project. Power BI and Excel reports are published to an App Workspace so that colleagues can view the content, and contribute as appropriate. 


Power BI App


A Power BI App is a set of packaged up content in the Power BI Service for the purpose of distributing related reports and dashboards to a larger base of consuming users.


Power BI Mobile Apps


Power BI Mobile Apps are native applications for iOS, Android, and Windows for viewing reports and dashboards on a mobile device.


On-Premises Data Gateway


The On-Premises Data Gateway is an agent installed within the corporate network to allow secure access to organizational data stored on-premises. There are two gateway modes: Enterprise mode and Personal mode.


Power BI Premium


Power BI Premium is an offering that provides dedicated resources for reports, dashboards, and datasets within the Power BI Service. This provides organizations more predictable performance, larger storage volumes, larger dataset sizes, higher refresh rates, and incremental data refresh. Premium also enables widespread distribution of content without requiring a Pro license for each read-only user. 


Power BI Report Server


Power BI Report Server is an alternative to the Power BI Service for deploying Power BI reports within an on-premises data center, as opposed to the cloud-based Power BI Service. Power BI reports are deployed and delivered in an on-premises portal alongside Reporting Services reports, Excel reports, and Mobile reports. 


Power BI Embedded


Power BI Embedded is an Azure service which provides capacity resources for embedded analytics scenarios. Although the set of REST and JavaScript APIs are unified between the Power BI Embedded capabilities in Azure and the Power BI Service, they are separate and distinct offerings. Power BI Embedded (available via A-series SKUs in Azure) is for embedding visuals into custom applications. 

 *Authorship contributions: Melissa Coates (Coates Data Strategies) and Chris Webb (Microsoft) / Microsoft® Whitepaper Planning a Power BI Enterprise Deployment