In this April 2, 2014 file photo, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gestures during the keynote address of the Build Conference in San Francisco. Microsoft on Thursday, July 17, 2014 announced it will lay off up to 18,000 workers over the next year. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
In this April 2, 2014 file photo, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gestures during the keynote address of the Build Conference in San Francisco. Microsoft on Thursday, July 17, 2014 announced it will lay off up to 18,000 workers over the next year. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)
In this April 2, 2014 file photo, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella gestures during the keynote address of the Build Conference in San Francisco. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg)

(Bloomberg) — Microsoft Corp. will offer free data-analysis tools and make them easier to use and set up, seeking to attract more business-software customers.

Power BI, which is used daily by Microsoft Chief Executive Officer Satya Nadella, competes with software from Tableau Software Inc., International Business Machines Corp.’s Watson Analytics and Salesforce.com Inc.’s Analytics Cloud. Tens of thousands of companies use it to analyze business operations and finances.

Up to now, Microsoft has been charging at least $33 a month for Power BI and requiring the latest version of Excel and a subscription to Office 365 online apps. Last week, Microsoft bought Revolution Analytics to bolster the business and is investing heavily and looking at both acquisitions and organic growth, said James Phillips, general manager for the product.

“We are tripling down on our investment,” Phillips said.

The market for business intelligence and analytics software is projected to expand to $21.4 billion in 2018 from $14.8 billion in 2014, according to IDC, as companies look for ways to easily gain insights for reams of data being collected from other business applications, websites, mobile devices and sensors. The new Power BI will be able to pull data from all of those sources.

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