In the first part of this paper, we give a newlook at inclusions of von Neumann algebras with finite-dimensional centers and finite Jones' index. The minimal conditional expectation is characterized by means of a canonical state on the relative commutant, that we call the spherical state; the minimal index is neither additive nor multiplicative (it is submultiplicative), contrary to the subfactor case. So we introduce amatrix dimension with the good functorial properties: it is always additive and multiplicative. Theminimal index turns out to be the square of the norm of the matrix dimension, as was known in the multi-matrix inclusion case. In the second part, we show how our results are valid in a purely 2- C *-categorical context, in particular they can be formulated in the framework of Connes' bimodules over von Neumann algebras.