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Interesting nugget from Barbara Darrow here, regarding the next release of the scorecard tools that are currently available as Solution Accelerators. I’m prepared to accept that the features it will contain will be ‘useful and startling’ (when was the last time that a software vendor told you anything else about a forthcoming version?) but to me the bigger news is the fact that it might ship bundled with SQL Server itself.

I already knew from reports such as this that MS decided that the previous ‘free download’ approach of marketing the Solution Accelerators was a failure. That didn’t surprise me: MS relies heavily on partners sell and implement BI solutions and in my experience they were very often lukewarm in their response to the Solution Accelerators. Why? Partly because these companies had existing relationships with vendors such as Proclarity who had their own tools with similar, and often more sophisticated functionality; partly because they were sceptical about the long-term future of a free tool (and let’s face it, the second report above vindicates this scepticism); and partly because the accelerators weren’t promoted much, so no-one knew about them. Bundling these tools with the database itself would automatically generate more visibility for them in terms of partners and more importantly customers (why do I need to buy Proclarity? I just want what this free tool on the SQL Server CD gives me…) and would help give the impression that MS is offering a much more rounded overall BI solution incorporating client as well as server components.

So where does this leave the partners? Well, there will always be a market for more sophisticated client tools than the ones that MS offers, and this approach by MS of offering more and more basic functionality spurs them on to improve their own offerings and make more of an effort selling them. Despite the fact that customers would prefer to deal with only one vendor when buying a BI solution (Marco Russo’s comments here are pretty typical, I think) the partner/third party client tool model is unlikely to go away. MS just likes to keep them on their toes, that’s all…

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