In 2019, Google acquired the business intelligence service Looker for $2.6 billion and Salesforce picked up Tableau for $15.7 billion. But today, the two competitors are growing closer together thanks to a new integration between the two. Specifically, Tableau users will soon be able to access Looker's semantic layer, while Google's Looker users will soon be able to use Tableau's visualization layer on top of the Looker platform.
This may seem like an unlikely partnership at first, but in a way, this allows both services to play to their strengths. Tableau's advanced visualization capabilities have always been a draw for its users, but unlike Looker, it was born on the desktop and despite all of the company's efforts, that desktop/cloud split is still somewhat apparent in its products. Looker, on the other hand, was born in the cloud, but it's also very much a product for the more technical user who can write SQL while Tableau's focus is more on enabling any business user to analyze data. That, in many ways, is also why both were a good match for their respective acquirers at the time.
"I think that everyone who is solving for simplicity and working with data is a partner of Google," said Gerrit Kazmaier, Google's VP & GM for Databases, Analytics & Looker, "We also work With Databricks. Ultimately, everyone is benefiting if we're solving the right problems overall. And if companies like Tableau -- a great partner of Google's -- are also interested in making working with data more simple, it's a really good basis for collaboration."
He noted that Looker's semantic model brings a lot of flexibility to the table, while Tableau offers its users a lot of tools to democratize data and around data visualization and storytelling. It's maybe no surprise then that the two companies already share a large number of customers. "We thought, how much would it help our customers if they just could use Tableau against LookerML? Meaning they would not be required to copy and again, get into all of this complexity. And on the other side, we thought on the Looker side, how much you know, would it actually help Looker customers, if they could just connect Tableau to it? And we thought, actually, it would help a lot."
Kazmaier argues that in the end, what counts is the customer experience and how a service can create value for a customer. "I think every company who starts making it about themselves is, is going to face hard times," he said.