Microsoft Power BI vs. Spotfire: Compare Core BI Capabilities and More

Microsoft Power BI and Spotfire are two well-known business intelligence solutions with robust functionality. They include self-service features that allow end users to create dashboards and run analytics for faster insights.

Here, we compare both software systems on several factors.

What is the Difference Between Power BI and Spotfire?

  • While both vendors have machine learning and AI features, Spotfire’s AI functionality is more robust.
  • Power BI Desktop is a free plan for individual users, while Spotfire has a 30-day free trial.
  • While Microsoft continues to publicize pricing for Power BI, Spotfire no longer does.

Product Overviews

The following excerpts from our Power BI and Spotfire reviews summarize each software solution:

Power BI

Microsoft Power BI is a cloud-based business intelligence and analytics service that provides a full overview of your most critical data. Connecting to all of your data sources, Power BI simplifies data evaluation and sharing with scalable dashboards, interactive reports, embedded visuals and more.

There are several versions. Power BI Desktop is an on-premise solution that connects to a cloud-based service to easily upload and share data and information across the company. Power BI Mobile has the same capabilities, but in an app, so you can have a 360 view of your company anytime, anywhere. Power BI has two additional versions with advanced features: Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium. Power BI Pro allows users to share insights with collaborators. They can analyze data by using conversational language (the Q&A feature) and get insights from pre-built visualization and reporting templates. Users can share data in other Microsoft platforms like Teams or Dynamics 365. Power BI Premium enables an organization’s internal or external users (e.g., clients) to view Power BI reports without a license. It also empowers users to prepare and transform big datasets.


Companies that require self-service discovery and fast answers to important questions may want to consider Spotfire.

Spotfire allows anyone, from beginners to advanced analysts, to perform simple (and even complicated) analyses in real time, without having to rely on IT. Spotfire also lets users drill down to figure out the “why” or root causes of business issues – and can even find patterns or trends within the data that spot hidden opportunities or issues.

The software has a built-in artificial intelligence (AI) engine that spots relationships between specific data and makes recommendations to users for further analysis. It also has a natural language search where users can type in their questions in a search bar and get recommendations and other answers.

Features Comparisons

Data Preparation

Power BI

Power BI connects with over 100 cloud-based and on-premise data sources (e.g., Excel, Salesforce, Azure SQL database). It includes automated daily refreshes, so data stays up to date. Note that the amount of daily refreshes depends on the tier: Power BI Pro performs up to eight refreshes per day, while Power BI Premium refreshes data up to 48 times daily.

Users can prepare their data with the Power Query tool. Power Query has prebuilt transformation functions (e.g., removing columns, filtering rows) that users simply select from within the interface. If a user needs to add a new transformation function, Power Query automatically adds in an M code, so the user doesn’t need to write any new code.


Users can blend, clean and make adjustments (inline data wrangling) within Spotfire. They can also wrangle data within the data canvas as the software automatically captures the data- wrangling process. Users can connect and blend data from many sources, including OLAP, Hadoop, relational databases and cloud applications (e.g., Salesforce, Google Analytics, Amazon Redshift). Spotfire has a recommendations engine that suggests tasks like adding table rows before loading data or linking data tables.

Bottom Line

Both solutions have similar data preparation features, but Power BI’s Power Query is a proprietary tool that streamlines data transformation, while Spotfire’s recommendations engine suggests automating specific tasks.

Data Visualizations and Dashboards

Power BI

Users can create visualizations using the drag-and-drop tool by choosing from many templates from Microsoft and third-party providers or by creating their own. They can create mobile-optimized reports by selecting the Phone Layout button and then adjusting the chart or graph.

The Power BI Pro tier lets users share the reports with their external or internal colleagues. Those colleagues can add comments to the visualization as well as subscribe for updates or alerts.


Users can analyze data with many visualizations, such as tables, charts, heatmaps and even custom visualizations. They can export dashboards and reports in PDF, PowerPoint or another file, and collaborators can add annotations and conversations to the data.

Visualizations can be accessed by desktop, tablet or smartphones and can even be embedded on a company’s website.

Bottom Line

Both Power BI and Spotfire have similar visualization designs (e.g., bar chart, waterfall chart, KPIs). However, Power BI has specific visualization types (e.g., cards, ribbon charts) that aren’t available in Spotfire.

Streaming Analytics

Power BI

Only available in the Power BI Premium version, users can input streaming dataflows into the workspace for data preparation and transformations. Once the streaming dataflow is set up, it can bring data into Power BI and perform continuous refreshes. Users can then create visualizations by connecting to the streaming dataflow.


Users can access real-time streaming data so they can spot issues and opportunities faster. The Spotfire Data Streams platform has a continuous query engine that processes streaming data from over 50 sources, including Internet of Things (IoT) technology. Users can combine current and historical data and receive alerts if there’s any major changes within the data.

Bottom Line

This feature is relatively new in both software systems. However, it appears that Power BI doesn’t allow for combining current and historical data (with data separated into two output tables), while Spotfire supports this functionality.

Predictive Analytics

Power BI

Users can run forecasts in their data using Power BI’s AutoML (Automatic Machine Learning) feature. Once a dataflow is created, the user can simply select from three machine learning models: Binary Prediction (model that predicts events with a binary outcome), Classification (dataset is classified in multiple groups and predicted outcome can be of many outcomes) and Regression (predicting a value such as revenue or customer sentiment).

The user then reviews the model before applying it to their data flow. The model automatically updates whenever a data flow is refreshed. Note that the AutoML feature is only available in the Power BI Premium version.


The Spotfire platform has machine learning functionality that detects complex trends in the data and makes accurate predictions. Users can visualize predictive data in dashboards and reports, and further calculations can be made with the TIBCO Data Science Platform or the Spotfire Data Functions. Organizations can also use open source code in R, SAS or MATLAB. Finally, Spotfire supports a number of statistical methods, including linear regression and Chi-square.

Bottom Line

Power BI offers users a choice of three machine learning models, while Spotfire supports complex statistical methods.


Power BI

Power BI Desktop is free to individual users. Here’s the pricing for Power BI Pro and Power BI Premium:

  • Pro – The Pro version costs $10 per user, per month and includes a mobile app, the ability to publish and share reports, a 1 GB model size limit, eight data refreshes daily, the ability to connect to over 100 data sources, embedded APIs and controls, AI visuals, data security and encryption, metrics for content creation and publishing, and up to 10 GB per user maximum storage. Pro is available for free for companies that have the Microsoft 365 E5 solution.
  • Premium (per user) – The Premium plan includes all of the features of the Pro plan, plus paginated reports, a 100 GB model size limit, 48 data refreshes daily, advanced AI features, XMLA endpoint read/write connectivity, dataflows, the ability to analyze data stored in Azure Data Lake Storage, application lifecycle management and up to 100 TB of maximum storage.
  • Premium (per capacity) – This version starts at $4,995 per month per dedicated cloud computer and storage resource. It includes all of the features of the Premium per user plan, plus on-premise reporting, a 400 GB model limit, multi-location deployment management, Bring Your Own Key (BYOK) and autoscale add-on.


Spotfire is available in a public cloud, private cloud and on premise deployments. The vendor no longer publishes pricing, so please contact them for a quote.

Bottom Line

While Microsoft continues to publicize pricing for Power BI, Spotfire no longer does.

Customer Support

Power BI

Microsoft offers several resources:

  • FAQs
  • In-depth documentation on tools and features
  • Guided learning courses
  • A community forum
  • Samples of Power BI reports and dashboards

In addition, Power BI Pro users can submit a support ticket.


Spotfire provides the following support resources for all of its users:

  • The Spotfire SupportCentral portal for browsing the knowledge base and submitting a ticket
  • Spotfire Community forum

Spotfire offers three optional support packages that include response times based on the issue severity level.

  • Bronze – Users can contact support during regular business hours (9AM-5PM EST Monday to Friday) and can expect an initial response within four business hours. The vendor’s targeted resolution is 48 hours for Severity 1 (software is entirely down) cases, five days for Severity 2 (at least one main feature is not operable) cases and in the next major product release for Severity 3 (software is usable, but inconvenient issues) cases.
  • Silver – This package provides 24/7 support, and users can expect an initial response time within four hours. The targeted resolution times are the same as the Bronze level.
  • Gold – The Gold package also provides 24/7 support. Its initial response time is an hour for Severity 1 cases and two hours for Severity 2 cases. The targeted resolution is 36 hours for Severity 1 cases, three days for Severity 2 cases and in the next major product release for Severity 3 cases.

Bottom Line

Both vendors have similar support offerings. However, Microsoft doesn’t have premium support, while Spotfire does.

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