Microsoft just bought a startup to boost one of its most important new products

Microsoft, under CEO Satya Nadella, is betting big on an up-and-coming software market called “business intelligence” (BI), the technology that lets businesses make smarter decisions based on loads of data without needing to consult a specialist or a statistician.

Microsoft today announced the acquisition of Datazen, a startup that took the concept of business intelligence and tried to make it more user-friendly with sharp design. Microsoft did not disclose what it paid for the startup, but indicated that the entire Datazen team of around 15 employees will join the company.

“Datazen is a mobile-first company at the forefront of this wave, with enterprise customers around the globe using its technology,” writes Microsoft’s Kamal Hathi in a blog entry.

Microsoft will be using it to beef up its existing BI tool, known as Power BI. Power BI was the first product Microsoft released after Satya Nadella took over as CEO, and it is one of the big examples of Nadalla’s vision to “reinvent” productivity.

The strategy here is simple: Power BI is run from Microsoft’s data centres as a cloud application. Datazen is designed to be installed at a customer’s site, on their own servers or in their own data center, and accessed from any device, from smartphones to PCs.

This way, Microsoft can offer both varieties while sacrificing neither, and all of Datazen’s current software and apps will remain available in their current form, according to a post on Datazen’s website. PowerBI and Datazen will integrate more and more tightly as time goes on.

In fact, current Microsoft SQL Server customers can download Datazen for no additional cost right now.

From a design perspective, Datazen also furthers Microsoft’s new commitment to acquiring well-designed and visually appealing applications that people enjoy using, as seen with recent app purchases Sunrise and Acompli (now renamed Outlook for iOS).

“Our ambitions went beyond a laundry list of product features; we wanted everyone to enjoy and look forward to using Datazen as a part of their daily routine.” writes Datazen CEO Miljan Braticevic in his blog entry.

Business intelligence is a hot market, with players like Birst taking in lots of funding to compete. But Microsoft sees this as a tremendous growth area, and it thinks it has the tools and the technology to lock this market down.

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