This is probably the best demo I’ve seen covering the new Q&A feature for Power BI:
The guy asking questions, Mark Reguera, was a non-technical finance guy @ Microsoft who started using PowerPivot/PowerView within his department. His methods gained traction and now I believe he’s transitioned into more of an evangelist role for the Power Pivot, Power View, and now Power BI product groups.
Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of details on the underlying natural language translator, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find out that the enabling technology was borrowed from the Bing-Search-Engine team at Microsoft. There’s also a reference to the use of “synonyms” embedded in the PowerPivot workbook which is very interesting…more details will be released closer to GA-release date.
Power BI is still in beta-mode and is limited to Office365 + PowerPivot (which is in line with Microsoft “cloud-first” development strategy announced earlier this year). But I expect over the next few years, as more and more companies move data up into the cloud, we’ll see a scenario where this works against larger datasets – think: Analysis Services Tabular (or whatever it’s called by then) in the cloud with a Q&A frontend where users can ask adhoc questions in natural language style and receive answers in near real-time without having to connect to the cube via Excel, and drag the various columns out into a pivot table for each question.