February 11, 2010
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Videos, photos and snippets of text are the stuff of social networking. But data is typically a second-class citizen. Tableau Software is hoping to change that with Thursday's launch of TableauPublic.com, a free site that lets users create compelling data visualizations and publish them to blogs, Web sites and Twitter feeds. Tableau's site marries its recognized data visualization technology with embedding capabilities popularized by the likes of Flickr and YouTube. The result gives data-minded collaborators a way to illustrate data. "It's about making visualizations shareable and enabling conversations around data," says Elissa Fink, Tableau's vice president of marketing. "Once you publish, the data and the graphics are right there on the Web." No special browser plug-ins are required to view Tableaupublic visualizations. But to develop charts and graphs, users need to download an add-in that lets them upload Access database files, Excel spreadsheets and text files. Storage is limited to 50 megabytes per registered user. Tableau's hope, of course, is that data jockeys using the site will fall in love with its visualization capabilities, which include everything from bar, line and area charts to data maps, scatterplots and sparklines. These visualization features (plus many more options and supported data types) are available through the company's $999 Tableau Desktop Personal Edition and $1,800 Professional Edition, both of which run on Windows PCs. The company also offers a server-based product that supports multi-user development and collaboration. Should Google ever decide to put a simple GUI in front of its Google Charts API, Tableaupublic.com might face competition (though Google’s charts aren’t interactive). But Tableau Software is a best-of-breed vendor in its niche, so it's not likely to be outmatched on data visualization capabilities.
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