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Tableau Data Visualization Tool Gets Major Revamp

Mar 21, 2013 (10:03 AM EDT)

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Tableau Software Thursday released Tableau 8, a major update of its data visualization tool.

Topping the list of 90 new features is support for mobile, drag-and-drop authoring, via a browser -- either using HTML5 or older Dynamic HTML browser technology. Formerly, the data visualization company's mobile offering supported consumption but not editing.

"We're making analytics fast and easy, beautiful and useful," Chris Stolte, chief development officer and Tableau Software co-founder, said in a statement.

Clearly, Tableau hopes the ability to modify queries and answer questions on the go will attract more users. The company claims about 10,000 installations of its desktop and server products worldwide.

[ Visualization can be key to understanding your data. Read How To Choose 'Advanced' Data Visualization Tools. ]

There might emerge a different class of user, Francois Ajenstat, Tableau's director of product management, told InformationWeek in a phone interview. "[They] aren't going to build deep analytics but they can filter, add dimensions, change visualization and see sophisticated calculations," he said.

"I buy the argument it'll expand their base," Cindi Howson, founder of BI Scorecard, told InformationWeek. She added that by offering a data visualization tool requiring minimal IT setup, Tableau is challenging traditional vendors of ad-hoc query tools, such as Business Objects and Cognosis, which also come in mobile versions.

Still, Howson said it wasn't entirely clear yet how customers would embrace these on-the-go systems.

In a separate announcement also aimed at adding customers, Tableau earlier this month said students could use its $2,000 desktop tool for free for one year.

Another important update in 8.0 are a number of new "connectors" for cloud-based data sources. These include connectors for Google Analytics, Google BigQuery and Salesforce.com.

The Salesforce connector might be especially important to customers, Howson said, given an issue with Saleforce.com's own reporting tool. "Right now, reports in Saleforce are pretty inflexible," she said. "Salespeople who aren't sophisticated BI users will now be able to look their data in a new way." She added Tableau is among a relative few BI vendors with native connectors to Salesforce.

Tableau also announced both a new Javascript API and data extract API, which customers can use to integrate Tableau into their own enterprise applications. For instance, using the API, a customer could pull a Tableau visualization into a website.

Tableau said it had also updated its free application, Tableau Public, with all of the new analytical and visualization features of the latest release.

Tableau, which premiered 8.0 at its customer conference last fall, said about 4,000 of its customers participated in the beta program for the new release.

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