Microsoft Access is celebrating its 30th year. It's an amazing accomplishment for a software product to be so successful for so many years. We at FMS were there since the beginning.
Here's our first hand, historical account of watching Microsoft Access take over the Windows desktop database market, and how we became the world's leading 3rd party developer of Microsoft Access products. Discover how we watched MS Access rise from nothing to the leading Windows desktop database application. This directly caused the implosion of Borland International which previously dominated the desktop database industry. Witnessing this in person was an amazing experience of how quickly technology can change established businesses.
This article was originally published by Microsoft on their website for the 10 Year Anniversary Celebration of Access (October 2002)
The video is from the November 1992 COMDEX conference where a very young Bill Gates personally announced the debut of Microsoft Access. He remains a big fan of Access and was actively involved in its design and development.
Established in 1986, FMS specialized in database applications and was a leading third-party developer of tools for Borland's Paradox DOS database product. In 1992, Borland just purchased Ashton Tate, and between Paradox and dBASE, another database product, controlled 85 percent of the personal computer database market.
Microsoft did not control any of the personal computer database market at the time. Borland thought they owned the world, but the transition to Microsoft Windows® was proving to be challenging.
At FMS, we were doing well with our MS-DOS® products and anticipating the transition to Windows. We played with early versions of Access and were very impressed with its table designer and referential integrity, powerful queries, flexible form designer, and report generator. We also liked the overall design of keeping all of the objects in one file. It was much better than what we saw coming from Borland for Windows.
Microsoft rolled out Access at COMDEX in 1992. The day before the rollout, Borland had a lunch with some of their top outside developers, and I was invited. After the lunch, Borland's Philippe Kahn (CEO), Rob Dickerson (President) and I found ourselves alone. I asked them if they had seen Access and what they thought about it. I was shocked by what seemed to be their complete ignorance and arrogance concerning Access.
They hadn't seen it and didn't care to. They assumed that they had a better solution, and although it was coming out later than Access, because of their significant market share, they would do fine. I was stunned. I remember saying, "I think it's a really good product. I think you should see it." They replied, "We're not worried."
I knew right then that FMS had to make a strategic change to support Access. I knew Borland was going to get buried. I almost flew home before the Access rollout. We were already behind. We weren't deeply involved with the Access team during the rollout, hadn't thought of any Access products (much less announce them), didn't get in the product catalog inside the Access box, and knew we had to move quickly.
Returning from Las Vegas, Dan Haught (EVP) and I started developing our Total Access documentation program.
Total Access became an immediate hit. That got us going in the Access market and the rest is history.
In July 1993, we released Total Access for Access 1.1. With promotions in the Access Advisor magazine and support from Microsoft people like Tod Nielsen, it became an immediate hit. That got us going in the Access market and the rest is history.
Total Access evolved into a family of products for Access. When Access 2.0 was released in 1994, we launched Total Access Analyzer (for database documentation and analysis), Total Access Agent (for automated database maintenance), Total Access Speller (a spellchecker), and Total Access Statistics (for data analysis).
Today, FMS is the world's leading third-party developer of tools for Microsoft Access and has released 12 award-winning products. We have customers in more than 100 countries, and offer products for Microsoft Visual Basic®, Microsoft SQL Server™, and Microsoft Visual Studio® .NET. And it all happened because of how impressed we were with Access in 1992.
Luke Chung is the president and founder of FMS, a leading provider of third-party developer tools for Access. Luke is a database developer and has created a wide range of applications using Access, Visual Basic, and SQL Server. He lives in Northern Virginia with his wife and two daughters.