Power BI and Microsoft 365 Licensing Explained

Power BI is free to get started with but requires a monthly subscription each month to share reports and take advantage of the cloud service, unless it is included in your current Microsoft 365 or Office 365 subscription. We’ll breakdown which Microsoft 365 licenses include Power BI and what the included licenses do and don’t allow you to do.

Some tiers of Microsoft 365 and Office 365 come with Power BI Pro subscriptions, while no tiers currently offer Power BI Premium

Often seen as a natural progression from Microsoft Excel, Power BI unlocks many powerful features for automating, prepping and reporting data. The best part is that many people already have access to the required licenses for Power BI along with other programs that make up the Microsoft Power Platform.

We’ll explain which Microsoft 365 subscriptions include the licenses and explain what is and isn’t included.

Let’s dive in!

Understanding Power BI License Types

There are two components to Power BI. Power BI Desktop is a full featured free Windows application that is used to transform data and create reporting dashboards. The second, is PowerBI.com, the Microsoft Cloud Service that hosts published reports to share and automate data refreshes among other features. To view and share reports on PowerBI.com a user needs at Power BI Pro or Premium license that starts at $10 per user per month.

Prices listed below are per user per month.

Power BI Desktop (Free)

Power BI Desktop is a free app you can download, it’s full functional and has all of the features you need to connect to data and build dashboards. However, you will need a Pro or Premium license to publish, share, and automate reports on PowerBI.com.

Power BI Pro ($10 USD)

A Power BI Pro license costs $10 per user per month and is the minimum required to setup automatic data refresh, and view reports shared with you on PowerBI.com.

Power BI Premium ($20 USD, or by capacity)

The next tier up is Power BI Premium. Premium can be purchased for $20 per user per month and adds enterprise level features such as the ability to refresh datasets more often and work with bigger amounts of data at one time.

Another option is purchasing Premium Capacity that allows for unlimited users, starts around $5,000 per month , and is mostly only cost effective for large enterprise customers.

Power BI License Comparison Chart

The following screenshot from the PowerBI.com pricing page published by Microsoft highlights some of the key feature differences between the different licensing tiers.

Power BI feature comparison chart from Microsoft

Bottom Line

Companies can mix and match license types. Most report viewers will have Pro licenses while Power Users, SME’s and COE’s will typically have Premium Licenses as needed.

Most users will find the Power BI Pro License is all that they need.

Understanding Microsoft 365 vs Office 365

When considering which Microsoft licenses include Power BI subscriptions, it’s important to make a distinction between Office 365 and Microsoft 365. Several years ago, Microsoft expanded the traditional Office Suite of products that people are familiar with and added features mostly aimed at advanced security and compliance that are important for large enterprises.

Most people who are end users of the Office Suite of apps probably won’t be familiar with them, because the enterprise tools are typically managed by IT departments and revolve around data retention, or letting people sign into multiple systems using a single company e-mail address.

We’re oversimplifying this a bit, but just want to showcase the difference between the two feature sets.

Microsoft 365

  • Comprehensive Package – Includes Office 365 suite, Windows Enterprise, Sensitivity Management etc.
  • Advanced Security and Device Management – Advanced threat protection, Entra ID, and Microsoft Intune
  • Ideal Use Cases – Best suited for larger organizations requiring strict compliance and security

Office 365

  • Productivity-Focused – Offers core applications like Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneDrive and SharePoint.
  • Cost-Effective and Scalable – More budget-friendly and suitable for businesses needing productivity tools
  • Ideal Use Cases: Favors smaller to medium-sized businesses or those with straightforward productivity and collaboration needs, without the necessity for comprehensive security and device management.

Bottom Line

Most small and mid-sized businesses will be happy with the features offered in Office 365, while large enterprises will want the added features that come with Microsoft 365 subscriptions.

You can find detailed information on the differences between the features provided by each subscription and tier here: Modern Work Plan Comparison Enterprise

Microsoft 365 and Office 365 Subscriptions that include Power BI Pro

Power BI Pro licenses are included in Microsoft 365 and Office 365 E5 subscriptions. They are also available as a standalone license that does not require an Office or Microsoft 365 subscription. Pro licenses are required for many features of PowerBI.com. Office 365 E5 costs $38 (USD) and Microsoft 365 costs $57 (USD) per user per month.

While less common, Power BI Pro licenses come with Government Office and Microsoft 365 G5 tiers. Pricing is available upon request from Microsoft.

Up to date licensing information is available from Microsoft: Compare Microsoft 365 Enterprise Plans | Microsoft 365

Should You Purchase Power BI Pro Licenses Separately from Office Subscriptions?

The price difference between an Office 365 E3 tier, and an E5 tier that includes Power BI pro is $15 USD. For a Microsoft 365 E3 to E5 tier the difference is $21 (USD).

The biggest difference between licenses are the inclusion of Power BI and Microsoft Publisher for Office, and the inclusion of Power BI and some additional security features for Microsoft 365. You really have to dig into the details with your IT team to determine if the added features are worth the extra cost above a $10 per month Power BI Pro License.

If your organization does not already have an E5 subscription, we recommend signing up for the lower tier, E3 and adding Power BI Pro licenses as needed.

There is some value in having a single license that covers a number of different products but the incremental costs add up quickly for businesses that typically have hundreds to thousands of Microsoft productivity suite licenses.

The following chart from the Microsoft licensing website highlights the different products that come with each tier of Office 365 at this time.

Comparison of Microsoft Office 365 comparison for included products and Power BI along with price points

As always, we recommend looking at the current prices directly from the Microsoft website and talk to your Microsoft licensing reseller if you are considering a large deployment. Compare Office 365 Enterprise Pricing and Plans | Microsoft 365

Does Microsoft or Office 365 Come with Power BI Premium Licenses?

There are no tiers of Office or Microsoft 365 that currently include Power BI Premium. However, E5 tiers of Office and Microsoft 365 include Power BI Pro. Premium licenses must be purchased separately or at a capacity level which provides premium features for all users within your business.

Conclusion

Power BI is free to use for dashboard and report development. A Pro or Premium license is required to share, view, and take advantage of the many features available on PowerBI.com.

Microsoft 365 and Office 365 E5 subscriptions come with a Power BI Pro license, but it’s less clear if this is a good value. The increase in cost from an E3 license to an E5 license exceeds the cost of purchasing Power BI Pro licenses separately.

There are currently no SKUs of Office 365 or Microsoft 365 that come with Power BI Premium. The features that Premium adds are mostly targeted towards power users and large enterprise customers that may find it advantageous to purchase Power BI Premium Capacity instead of individual licenses.

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