Microsoft's Power BI cloud-hosted data visualization and business intelligence service will finally hit general availability on July 24.

Power BI first launched in July 2013 as part of Office 365, but the company has notably upgraded the service. Microsoft released Power BI as a beta earlier this year, and the new service is finally ready to exit preview and become generally available this month.

"Power BI Desktop - currently known in preview as the Power BI Designer - is a powerful new visual data exploration and interactive reporting tool available for free at It provides a free-form canvas for drag-and-drop exploration of your data and an extensive library of interactive visualizations, while streamlining report creation and publishing to the Power BI service," Microsoft explains in its new announcement.

The general release marks a major milestone for the new product and will add a slew of neat new features, including a revamped desktop application and new chart types, as well as support for collaborating in groups on shared data sets. With Power BI, regular business users will be able to leverage powerful tools to visualize information from various sets of data in dashboards that are updating live.

Microsoft built its Power BI around three essential components: datasets, reports, and dashboards. Power BI can draw content from a firm's data, for instance, leveraging connections to multiple sources such as Azure SQL Data Warehouse, Azure SQL Database, SQL Server Analysis Services and more.

At the same time, Microsoft is also offering packs that can pull in sets of data from third-party vendors such as GitHub, Salesforce and others.

Users can also create content packs themselves using Power BI, as well as share them with others. Additional packs will become available with future upgrades of the product, enabling connections with even more outside services. At least one new pack should become available each week.

Power BI currently supports 44 languages and will also work on multiple platforms. Preview builds are already available for Android and iOS, as well as Windows, and the final release should hit mobile versions as well. The business analytics tool has already proved to be quite popular and the general launch on July 24 is expected to attract more customers.

Interested customers will be able to try out Power BI for free if they sign up with their business email address, but the free tier comes with a 1 GB data cap per user and allows users to update their data only once a day. A Power BI Pro subscription will be available for $9.99 per month for each user, boosting data capacity to 10 GB and allowing users to refresh their data every hour, in addition to other perks and benefits.

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