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Tableau 2020.1 unveiled for beta testing

Featuring improvements to Explain Data, an AI product that aims to explain the reasons behind data points, the update is made up of 21 features.

Though a couple of weeks still remain in 2019, Tableau is turning its attention to next year, and on Wednesday rolled out Tableau 2020.1 for beta testing.

Though not yet available to the general public, the beta version of Tableau 2020.1 includes 21 features.

Among them are an update to Explain Data, an augmented intelligence product built directly in Tableau that uses statistical algorithms to analyze data and then explain what is driving specific data points. The update aims to improve the performance of Explain Data -- first unveiled in Tableau 2019.3 -- for wide data sets, and includes refined models to help customers derive deeper insight from their data.

In addition, Tableau 2020.1 includes Dynamic Parameters, which saves users the cumbersome task of republishing a workbook with parameters every time the underlying data changes by performing automatic updates. It also includes enhanced map building prowess, an add-on to Tableau Data Management that will speed up the process of getting to the right data and improved connectors to Salesforce and Snowflake.

Despite the array of updates and new offerings, the 21 features included in the beta version of Tableau 2020.1 are modest improvements rather than major new capabilities, analysts said.

"It's all organic growth, incremental improvements," said Boris Evelson, principal analyst at Forrester. "[Tools like] Explain Data have been a core feature of leading enterprise BI platforms for a while now."

Similarly, Wayne Eckerson, founder and principal consultant of Eckerson Group, noted that the platform contains upgrades but he said they are not innovative new features that will force other vendors to react.

Tableau's latest platform update, now in beta testing, includes an update to Explain Data.
Tableau 2020.1, just released for beta testing, includes an update to Explain Data, an AI tool from the vendor that attempts to explain the reasons behind data points.

"There are a lot of incremental improvements," he said, "and there's more movement to Tableau Server and [Tableau Online] to achieve parity with Tableau Desktop."

There are a lot of incremental improvements, and there's more movement to Tableau Server and [Tableau Online] to achieve parity with Tableau Desktop.
Wayne EckersonFounder and principal consultant, Eckerson Group

One feature not included in Tableau 2020.1 is a low-code data modeling tool.

Tableau, which is based in Seattle, revealed on its website that it plans to provide new data modeling capabilities that will allow customers to analyze data without having to learn advanced database concepts or write custom SQL code.

The capability, however, is only in the alpha testing stage at this point.

"That could be interesting," Eckerson. "I suspect it's a semantic layer, which Tableau has never really had. That would be big news. They need that to keep up with Power BI, which is one of its key differences with Tableau."

Though not a specific feature, something else not evident in Tableau 2020.1 -- at least not in any obvious way -- is influence of Tableau's acquisition by Salesforce.

Tableau 2020.1 marks Tableau's second platform update since Nov. 5, when Salesforce and Tableau finally received regulatory approval to proceed with their merger and were finally allowed to begin working together. But the first update, Tableau 2019.4, came just a day after the companies were freed from their regulatory holdup and they never had a chance to join forces.

Five weeks have passed since the lifting of regulatory restrictions and the beta release of Tableau 2020.1, but that's still not enough time for Salesforce and Tableau to significantly collaborate on technology.

The only mention of Salesforce among the 21 features in Tableau 2020.1 is the improved connector.

"I've seen no indications of Tableau and Salesforce doing any integrations as of yet," Evelson said, "so this is all business as usual for Tableau."

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