Beta Blues

Beta Blues.
I want to draw attention to what I consider to be a disturbing
Microsoft marketing trend, one that I would strongly encourage the
company to withdraw from. More importantly, I'd like to discourage
other vendors from venturing down the same treacherous path. …

The problems would be less if the betas were better. Colleague Michael Gartenberg aptly summed up the problem
in a blog posted the same day Microsoft released its desktop search
beta: Beta “used to be near-finished software sent out to outside
testers for testing to un-cover bugs (as opposed to Alpha software that
was tested internally). It was not sold, distributed widely. In fact,
good beta testers were paid for their work. It was meant to be
functional and feature complete if a bit buggy. Today it's a catch all
phrase for buggy, incomplete software rushed to market. If it doesn't
work, the excuse is, well, it's beta.”

I would have hoped Microsoft learned a lesson from the Longhorn fiasco, where overhype too soon about next-generation Windows distracted from Windows XP marketing. More disastrous, Microsoft has had to chuck Longhorn features highly touted in marketing messaging about the new operating system–and all the talk about a product not even beta, but alpha. Such a set back has to create negative customer perceptions about Longhorn and other Microsoft products.

To be fair, not all Microsoft divisions operate the same way. Some
groups rarely or never release any kind of outside beta. Testing is
internal or with select testers. But I see these groups as the
minority, one growing smaller with each release cycle. I can't
strongly-enough say that Microsoft needs to rethink the beta process,
particularly quality of releases and marketing around them, and reset
some milestones leading to shipping products. Always beta is a high, a
false state of mind, one that can only cause long-term problems with
customers living in reality   [Microsoft Monitor]

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