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Satya Nadella
Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in San Francisco today. (GeekWire Photo/Blair Hanley Frank.)

SAN FRANCISCO – Data is big business for Microsoft, and the company wants to make it easier for everyone to take advantage of it. Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella took the stage at the company’s “Insights Await” event in San Francisco today to talk about the company’s vision for bringing big data tools to people who aren’t data scientists. 

“We want to take an architectural approach that brings together Excel on one end and SQL Server and Hadoop on the other end,” Nadella said.

To get there, the company has added tools to PowerBI and Office that make it easier to take insights from data sets. Eron Kelly, Microsoft’s General Manager for SQL Server and Data Platform Marketing, showed off a new feature for Power BI called Q&A, which allows users to enter text queries and get visualizations of their data back instantly.

The approach could be competitive with existing players including Tableau, the Seattle-based company that has built its business by giving users tools to easily visualize massive sets of data.

Nadella said the idea is to tame “data exhaust” – raw information that’s generated as people interact with technology around them — and turning that information into actionable insights that wouldn’t have been available before.

The changes could be big business for Microsoft, which Nadella said currently makes more than $5 billion off of SQL Server alone. Making it easier for more users to take advantage of the company’s data tools could drive more growth as the amount of data in the world continues to rise.

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