Google delves into business intelligence

27 Mar 2008

As part of a calculated strategy to take on Microsoft’s powerful Office products suite, Google has partnered with a business intelligence (BI) firm to develop software as a service (Saas) analytics, reporting and a data visualisation tool for its free Google Docs applications suites.

The partnership with Panorama Software is, in particular, seen as an attack on Microsoft Excel and follows the introduction of Gadgets-in-Docs: the ability to embed different gadgets in a spreadsheet.

Panorama’s analytic for Google Docs aims to smarten up Google’s desktop applications, in the same way it has done for Microsoft Office 2007, in order to push it into the hands of more corporate users.

The software, which has been released as a beta version this week, is offered as a free desktop gadget that works with Google Spreadsheets. It draws on analysis, reporting, dashboard, visualisation (charting) and data modelling tools that are part of Panorama’s NovaView BI suite.

These elements combine to create Panorama Pivot Tables, which can be embedded and manipulated in applications like Google Spreadsheets.

“Google will be hoping this BI tie-up will do more than just drive greater use of its spreadsheet application in more consumer BI applications, for example, to analyse personal expenses,” said Madan Sheina, senior analyst at Ovum.

“It also believes it will be a boon to small- and medium-sized businesses that use Google Apps and want more enterprise-friendly capabilities. Finally, independent software vendors (ISVs) will also see this integration as a new opportunity to write custom report templates, analytics and dashboards to help with corporate decision-making and planning.”

Sheina said the Panorama tie-up represents the second major attempt by Google to make its spreadsheet application smarter. Panorama already provided a thin layer of integration between NovaView and Google Spreadsheets. But, she says, this latest collaboration goes a lot deeper.

“In line with Google’s cloud applications computing model, Panorama has now made its lightweight, yet powerful NovaView OLAP engine a SaaS offering. Panorama is also looking to develop SaaS.

“NovaView integrates with Google’s web analytics and internet advertising SaaS offerings as well. It is also encouraging ISVs to follow the lead of its Pivot Table integration within Google and tap into NovaView’s APIS to develop customised SaaS BI applications as well.”

Sheina suggests this could signal the start of a much deeper level of integration that mirrors Panorama’s relationship with Google-rival Microsoft.

“Apart from rebranding Panorama’s OLAP platform as SQL Server Analysis Services, Microsoft has allowed NovaView’s BI capabilities to leak into its Office 2007 suite. That said, Google still has some way to go before it can match Microsoft’s BI capabilities in Excel. But this integration is a good start.”

“The Panorama-Google offering now expands the range of free BI options for customers beyond just open source tools from the likes of Pentaho, Jaspersoft and Actuate BIRT. It could prompt Excel users to re-evaluate the per-set licensing they have invested in Excel as they consider the shifting dynamics of delivering BI from desktop to online (cloud) environments,” Sheina added.

By John Kennedy