Here's a video I shot at the Microsoft SQL Server 2008 R2 event held at the MaRS Center in Toronto yesterday.  John Hancock,  a lead program manager in the SQL Server Analysis Services team along with Doug Harrison, Solution Specialist -BI from Microsoft demo new features in PowerPivot For Excel, Sharepoint and SQL Server 2008 R2 BI.  For those who are familiar with the Cognos BI ecosystem of tools and offerings, you will likely draw some similarities between the use case Microsoft is positioning here with this tool, and that of Cognos 8 Go! Office.  Both are borne of the realization that for the vast majority of analysis and reporting activity performed in organizations, Excel remains as the preferred tool of the knowledge worker and data analyst.  
Despite all the investment and resources in moving to common processes and ERP tools, one ofo the most significant challenges organizations have is having to deal with the integration of external data into their analysis and reporting functions.  As you watch the video, notice the emphasis and focus Microsoft has placed on empowering the business user to integrate this data in low-friction manner.  Those such as myself with BI experience understand well that “self-service” BI is a double edged sword – I am a firm believer a model where it's self service “for those few who need it” and more standardized reporting 'for the masses”. You will also hear reference to “in memory” technology that is quite prevalent in the R2 release – interacting with a 100 million row spreadsheet was a pretty powerful demonstration of what the marriage of Excel 2010 and PowerPivot for Excel could provide. 
Part 1/2 – PowerPivot For Excel Keynote 

Part 2/2 – PowerPivot For Excel Demo 

Over the next several weeks I will be sharing my ongoing experiences with SQL Server 2008 R2 BI, my next task being to get environment up and running in my test lab for some Making IT Work test drives…Stay tuned!