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Microsoft takes InfoPath behind the shed, says successor will be better

Next one will work on PCs, phones, and slabs – but how, we don't know

Firing squad

Microsoft has announced that it has axed its Office InfoPath forms-entry software, in favor of a new, yet-to-be-announced technology that will be revealed later this year.

"In an effort to streamline our investments and deliver a more integrated Office forms user experience, we're retiring InfoPath and investing in new forms technology across SharePoint, Access, and Word," the Microsoft Office team said in a blog post on Friday. "This means that InfoPath 2013 is the last release of the desktop client, and InfoPath Forms Services in SharePoint Server 2013 is the last release of InfoPath Forms Services."

Redmond debuted InfoPath as a component of Office 2003. An XML-based form composition and entry system, it was designed to make it easier for businesses to capture data and output it in a variety of industry-standard formats. But in the modern world of smartphones, tablets, and touchscreen UIs, the InfoPath desktop client software is showing its age.

"Industry trends and feedback from our customers and partners make it clear that today's businesses demand an intelligent, integrated forms experience that spans devices," Microsoft said.

Just what the eventual replacement for InfoPath will be, however, isn't clear. According to InfoPath's obituary notice, Redmond plans to deliver something that will work across PCs, tablets, and phones, but no further details have been given.

The Office team doesn't actually have much of a track record for delivering cross-device experiences, either. Microsoft keeps threatening to ship versions of the core Office applications with UIs more suited to mobile devices, but so far only OneNote is available in a full-featured fondleslab edition. The versions of Office for iOS and Android phones aren't much more than glorified document viewers.

But businesses that are heavily invested in InfoPath needn't fear. Mainstream support for InfoPath 2013 doesn't end until 2018, and customers can pay for extended support through 2023.

As for InfoPath's successor, Microsoft says it will be sharing updates on its progress throughout the year, and customers can expect a sneak peek at the new tools at this year's SharePoint Conference, scheduled to take place in Las Vegas from March 3-6. ® 

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