ASNA Gives Legacy AVR Customers an Extension
January 22, 2013 Alex Woodie
Having customers on a legacy product will make you do funny things. For IBM, it meant bowing to pressure and keeping i5/OS V5R4 around for seven years. Microsoft almost doubled that with Windows XP, which will be 13 years old when support ends next year. ASNA also has a legacy customer base that’s dependent on Windows XP-era technology, but a recent update will give them some breathing room as they modernize their systems.
ASNA recently shipped the first new version of ASNA Visual RPG (AVR) in many years. AVR, of course, is ASNA’s flagship product that allows programmers to develop applications in an RPG-like syntax within Microsoft’s Visual Studio. These applications can be compiled to run on Windows or IBM i systems, providing a degree of flexibility and skill re-use that has benefited thousands of customers over the years.
With the adoption of Microsoft’s.NET technology several years back, ASNA followed Microsoft’s lead and adapted AVR to take advantage of the .NET environment. Customers have gradually migrated from the classic COM (component object model) version of AVR to the new .NET version of AVR.
The problem was that AVR Classic could neither run on, nor compile applications to, versions of Windows following XP, including Windows Vista, Windows 7, and Windows 8. This hasn’t been a major issue up to this point, since Windows XP is still widely used in the corporate environment (being replaced by Windows 7, since Vista was a dud and Windows 8 appears to be a dud). What’s more, Windows XP is still officially supported by Microsoft.
However, that changes on April 8, 2014. That’s the date when Microsoft ends extended life support for Windows XP. The doomsday scenario was that ASNA might have hundreds or thousands of customers running AVR Classic on an unsupported version of Windows. That’s when the folks down in San Antonio, Texas, decided to take the bull by the horns.
“We finally bit the bullet in AVR Classic 5.0 and switched our compliers to the latest C++ .NET,” ASNA product evangelist Roger Pence says. “Now you can do AVR development on Windows 7 and Windows 8, and deployment is supported on Windows 7 and Windows 8 as well.”
AVR Classic customers won’t gain all the whiz bang benefits of writing managed .NET code. They’re still stuck in a COM paradigm until they make the move to .NET versions of ASNA. But at least they won’t be stuck on a platform that Microsoft is extremely eager to put six feet under.
“What we’re trying to do is help buy these guys time,” Pence says. “People with Windows XP are going to have some pretty tough decisions to make coming up. We put this AVR Classic 5.0 out there to give these guys a bigger persistence window to let them make decisions about the life of their classic code.”
ASNA shipped AVR Classic 5.0 in December, and even though it put a lot of work into the new release, the company decided against formally announcing the product. The stealth launch was necessary because ASNA is dead-set against selling AVR Classic 5.0 to new clients. They would much rather sell AVR 11.0, which also is new and which supports all the latest Microsoft languages and products, including Visual Studio 2012.
While it focuses its efforts to attract new customers with AVR for .NET, Wings, and Mobile RPG, ASNA is smart to do right by existing customers. “These guys are important to us,” Pence says. “If we didn’t go to Windows 7 and Windows 8, that might make them say, ‘Well, we’re just going to just do something else anyway.’ We’re just trying to keep them in the family.”
Keeping your legacy customers happy while helping them adapt to newer technologies is one of the job descriptions when running a software company. ASNA obviously gets it, and after (just a little) prodding, the company shared its activities in this regard.
We understand that ASNA isn’t too eager to showcase new developments with old technology, especially in a hyper-paced IT environment. But how you treat older customers is important to today’s customers too, considering they’ll be tomorrow’s legacy customers.