A Look at the Future: Will Tableau Users Eventually Be In Vizable?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015 - 21:45
At the Tableau conference in Las Vegas this week, Tableau announced a new product that’s getting a tremendous amount of buzz: Tableau Vizable.
 
For the uninitiated, at last year's customer conference, Tableau first showed some early versions and concepts of what was then known as "Project Elastic." The demo last year looked interesting, but the main question from many was, “What are they going to do with it?”  
 
Last year, Project Elastic was solid demoware: a little rough around the edges, very conceptual, and not as full featured as Tableau by any stretch of the imagination. It gave me some pause. Was it just for fun? Was it a toy? Would we ever see it again, or was this just something to entertain investors?
 
The introduction of Vizable this year has answered at least some of these questions. We've had an opportunity to work with the application at the conference. Not too surprisingly, it's a pretty fun app. It's incredibly easy to open basic tabular data with a modest amount of rows, jump right in, and start spinning out and playing with bar charts and time-based line graphs.
 
 
Filtering, hierarchical data analysis and metric comparison are fairly intuitive, though I did find that there are many features that are not obvious. In their effort to have an amazingly clean interface, they've hidden some of the capabilities a bit. That trade off of simplicity vs. clarity was certainly intentional. Once you understand certain interactions are available, it's not bad, but the first time, you may miss a few capabilities.
 
Tableau released Vizable as an iPad only app on the Apple App Store (sorry, Android users).  One of the exciting things is that at this point, this initial release is free to download and use. Many of us at Inquidia have speculated on the strategy of this move. Tableau is, after all, a software company, and license revenue is what drives their financial performance. Free software is not exactly a sustainable business model for a software company.
 
There are a few possibilities on the strategy of the Vizable release. One option is that Tableau may be entertaining the idea of a longer-term freemium model on the application. For now, get the base application for free, but for you'd like to power up, one could pay for more visualization types, source data connectors, and more in the future.
 
Another option is that it's just a pure Tableau marketing and promotion mechanism, where, through the application, Tableau will build a list of Vizable customers as an asset. From there, Tableau can cross sell the core application as a Vizable user increases in skill and need.
 
One thing I think all would agree on, is that Tableau is a solid marketer, wrapping themselves in a plausible (albeit HBO Silicon Valley-esque parodyable) message of "making the world s better place through data." It would not be shocking to see Tableau looking at Vizable mostly as a rich Tableau marketing and customer acquisition tool.
 
Almost certainly, though, Tableau sees Vizable as a test lab of sorts. I believe this is at the core of their long term strategy. Tableau's viz engine, while amazing, is starting to show its age. It's 10 year old rendering engine doesn't handle animation as smoothly as newer models. Animation is key. Motion can be a very powerful way to see and understand data, and classic Tableau does not shine there.
 
Vizable takes this challenge on, and does superior animation and transitions to entertain and delight its users. Vizable breathes a bit of fun into the legacy Tableau interaction model, and I think that design and approach of delivering analysis in an entertaining way deserves a strong look.
 
Admittedly, Vizable does not even come close to the capabilities of the longstanding legacy Tableau environment. Heavy Tableau Desktop users will almost certainly see Vizable as nothing more than a cute toy. But for those of you looking for a peek into the long term future of the Tableau product, you may just want to take a look, and get yourself in Vizable.
 
 

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