As a business intelligence application developer you will likely do your proof-of-concept browsing in BIDS, but in using the cubes you've built for them, your customers will actually do the slicing and dicing in Excel pivot tables or by using Office Web Components technology. Analysis Services and Excel together make a formidable business intelligence platform and there is no reason not to take advantage of that. Furthermore, there are very few business professionals who don't know Excel; it really is a nearly ubiquitous application. The next version of Excel provides you with additional capabilities that help in easy interpretation of data.
Nonetheless, there are tools from other companies that provide connectivity to and leverage from Analysis Services 2005, each with their own value-add proposition. This chapter was focused on Microsoft client services and tools, but there are other options available. Some of the commonly used client tools which we are aware of are from Panorama, Proclarity, and MIS AG. There are many more.
The offerings from Panorama are designed to complement the use of Office, SQL Server, Analysis Services, and Reporting Services. Central to their strategy is the NovaView Intelligence Server and the NovaView Development Tools. Proclarity offers a number of products in the business analytics space. They provide a Software Development Kit in support of the "Proclarity Analytics Family" of products. That SDK supports the building of custom business intelligence applications. Finally, MIS Plain is an Excel plug-in that provides a unique Excel analytics experience; not only does it articulate with Analysis Services 2005 as you would expect, it also makes use of the Reporting Services 2005 offering. For more information on these offerings, you can explore the relevant web sites: