The first thing you need to know about the "PowerPivot" Data Model is that there are TWO primary places where you can find it:

Excel PowerPivot

Power BI Desktop

And while those two may LOOK different on the surface, they are very much the SAME under the hood

Excel PowerPivot

Power BI Desktop

When you learn one, you’re learning them BOTH

The differences between the two are purely cosmetic.

Anything you build in an Excel Data Model can be converted to a Power BI Desktop Data Model with just a few clicks – because they use the same engines and languages!  (Some of the visuals might not translate over, but those are quick to recreate.  It’s the brains of your models that are important, and those transfer effortlessly.)

OK, how is different from Power BI Desktop?
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CREATE with Power BI Desktop

Power BI Desktop is where you CREATE models and dashboards.

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SHARE with is where you PUBLISH and SHARE share those models and dashboards.  Then, others can view and interact with those dashboards in their browsers and, even better, on their mobile devices.

Can I also publish Excel Reports to

The answer is the SAME for Excel Reports vs. Power BI Reports– you BUILD either in their respective desktop app (Excel or Power BI Desktop), and then you can PUBLISH them to  Excel reports get published to a section called Workbooks, and Power BI Desktop reports get published to a section called Reports.

But with Excel reports, you also have the option of “on premises” SharePoint as your publishing platform, so if you’re not ready for the cloud, this might be the right path for you.

So what are the main differences between Excel & Power BI again?

Trust us…we know it can be a little confusing navigating through Microsoft products. We won’t leave you in the cold though!

So here’s a nice flow chart that breaks down where the commonalities exist (and don’t exist) between Excel, Power BI Desktop, and the service.

Data Preparation: Both Excel & Power BI Desktop uses Power Query to connect with, transform, and load data into a Data Model.

Data Modeling: Both Excel & Power BI Desktop have Data Models and use DAX to create pocket formulas for the data.

Data Visualization: You can publish BOTH Power BI Desktop OR Excel Workbooks to the service. Additionally, reports can be created DIRECTLY in the service in the form of basic reports or streaming data sets. Lastly, Dashboards are something that can ONLY be created in the service, and are “typically” an extension of Power BI Desktop Reports.

Do I have to use to see reports online?

Actually…no! One of the smart decisions Microsoft made was to allow Power BI reports to be embedded in any website. They knew that people would want other ways of sharing reports outside of the environment.

Granted, you do lose some features that are only available when logged directly into the environment. But overall it’s still a great option to have! You can read more about Embedding PBI reports in the Official Microsoft Documentation.

In fact…we’ve embedded a report RIGHT INTO THIS PAGE. Go ahead…touch it, it’s a 100% fully functional report. 🙂

This report is actually featured on the Microsoft Partner Showcase website, as we are one of a select number of Gold Certified Microsoft Partners. More information about this report can be found on our Partner Showcase Page.

More Reading

This is about right for a high-level summary, but if you’ve still got questions, here are a few additional pages/resources that you may find helpful.

And you can always simply proceed to getting the software…

UP NEXT: Get the Software

What is PowerPivot?
Explains why Excel PowerPivot is such a life-changer over traditional Excel alone.  (Yes, it’s written from the Excel PowerPivot perspective, but it still explains the original and most central of the Data Model Engines – the DAX formula and modeling engine – in a manner that’s relevant to Power BI Desktop.)

Transitioning from Excel PowerPivot to Power BI Desktop
Drills down on the similarities between the two environments.  For more on the strategic reasons why Microsoft has two environments, see What is Microsoft Up To?