No software product is used more than Microsoft Excel for the analysis and presentation of quantitative data. While its use is prolific, and it does some things very well, its charting functionality is rather sad. The charts feature dazzling visual effects that are perhaps useful for marketing, but you can only use them to present data effectively with discouraging effort. Nevertheless, it is fair to say that you can use Excel to present data effectively, but within severe limits, and only if you’re willing to work around its problems. To say it can be used for visual data analysis, however, is a stretch that exceeds its reach. To date, Excel is at best an infant in the world of visual data analysis, barely able to roll over.
Those of you who are familiar with visual data analysis and what good software does to support it will find Microsoft’s notion of visual data analysis entertaining. I invite you to watch Microsoft’s demo and let me know what you think of it. I suspect that the folks at Microsoft Research who understand information visualization must look at this and cringe.