Microsoft Access: The Database Software That Won't Die →November 5, 2019 • #
I love this story about Access and how it’s still hanging on with a sizable user base after almost a decade of neglect by its parent. It goes to show you that there are still gaps in the market for software being filled by 10 year-stale applications. Getting users to unlearn behaviors is much harder than giving them an Airtable, Webflow, or Fulcrum — too much comfort and muscle memory to overcome.
Its long lifespan can be attributed to how it services the power user, as well as how simple it is to create a relational database with so few steps (“it just works”):
Power users can be a dangerous group to help. With a little knowledge, you can make a very powerful weapon for shooting yourself in the foot. But there is a serious untapped potential here. Give a technical person a way to solve their problems that doesn’t involve writing pages of code, and they can make a difference — automating small tasks, managing their own islands of data, and helping to keep their local environment organized and effective.
Today, there remains a hunger for codeless or code-light tools. Motivated people want to do their jobs without paying expensive professionals for every semicolon. But so far the only offerings we’ve given them are a VBA macro language from a generation ago and pricey tools like PowerApps that only work if your business signs up for a stack of Microsoft cloud products.
The low/no-code universe of applications is expanding in the last couple years. We’re riding this wave ourselves and have been betting on it since 2011. In the market for data tools, there’s a spectrum of user capability: from the totally non-technical on one end (Excel might be a stretch for these folks) to the developer user on the other (where’s my SQL Server?). What stories like this demonstrate is that that “power user” middle is a lot wider than most of us have predicted.
- Hardcore Software — Steven Sinofsky's syndicated book on his time at Microsoft.
- Hardy Boys and Microkids — A review of Tracy Kidder's 1981 book, 'The Soul of a New Machine'.
- Clippy: The Unauthorized Biography — Steven Sinofsky gives the history of Clippy, Microsoft's original assistant