Is Microsoft Access Dying?

MS Access

The short answer is – definitely not in the short run. Maybe in the 3-5 year horizon.

History and Popularity Today

Microsoft Access is indeed the grand-daddy of business software, first released in 1992 almost three decades ago!

MS Access was the first mass market database application for Windows, and indeed across all platforms. It was perhaps the first “low code” application builder because unlike its DB counterparts, it also allowed users to build the front end of an application to manage business processes. It comes bundled with the ubiquitous Microsoft Office suite, and might not be as popular as its productivity cousins (Office, Powerpoint, Excel etc.) but is almost universally known amongst the technical IT community.

Access is a complete database application, with tremendous depth and flexibility. Organizations across industries as diverse as non-profit, manufacturing, public sector, healthcare use it to manage data and create custom applications. Access still has a substantial presence in the market going by some of the following statistics

Waning popularity

Although Access is still used by a substantial number of organizations, there is an undeniable and irreversible trend towards people moving away from the application. The graph below which shows the number of Google searches for Microsoft Access over the years shows the diminishing interest.

In 1992, Access was way ahead of its times as an “every person’s” database tool and application builder. However, in recent years, it has failed to keep up with fundamental shifts in the market as listed below (in more detail in a separate post).

  • The Cloud. Microsoft belatedly launched a “cloud” version of Access called Access Web Apps, but quietly retired it last year. Due to being primarily available on the desktop environment, Microsoft Access has the severe limitation of being a siloed solution, while modern applications require multiple people to work on them.
  • Mobile. Increasingly, people want to access their data and apps on mobile devices. Access has not kept up with mobile support.
  • UX Excellence. While MS Access was considered fantastically user friendly in 1992, it comes across as clunky and forbidding compared to new application builders.

The Future of Microsoft Access is bleak

There are enough users currently on Microsoft Access for it to make business sense for Microsoft to keep the product. But the movement away from the application is unstoppable given its limitations. Microsoft obviously realizes this, and is itself pushing Access users to PowerApps, its new generation application builder.

The likely future, Microsoft will continue to support Access in the coming years, but invest less and less on the roadmap and new features. Once it determines that the center of gravity has shifted to PowerApps, it will quietly phase out Access.

Current Access users need not despair however. There are modern numerous application builders in the market which are built for the modern cloud-first, mobile-first world. They provide a way more pleasing user experience, while offering innovative new capabilities for creating your own applications. Some examples: