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MS: Beta Software Good Enough for Production Use 411

RMX writes "CNet is reporting that Microsoft is starting to license test software for real-world use . In particular, Visual Studio 2005 and the April "community technology preview" of SQL Server 2005 are both supposed to be released sometime in the second half of the year. But Microsoft is claiming the pre-release versions are stable already, so they're licensing the pre-released versions on the grounds that they 'are already suitable for running production business applications.'"
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MS: Beta Software Good Enough for Production Use

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  • Accountability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fembots ( 753724 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:39PM (#12275957) Homepage
    Didn't Google start all this?

    The main thing is, if something breaks, the company just puts its hands up and says "opps, sorry it's a Beta", and I bet there will still be plenty of users (businesses) who are willing try them.

    In addition to the accountability shift, companies can roll out patches in a more timely fashion. With beta-security-patch, MS is free to distribute patches to plug holes even on a daily basis.
    • Re:Accountability (Score:3, Insightful)

      by bmw ( 115903 )
      At least Google's beta stuff actually *works*

      You can't even say that about Microsoft's production software let alone beta software.
      • by ShieldW0lf ( 601553 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:55PM (#12276184) Journal
        Are we still supposed to wait for SP2, or does this mean that SP1 is the one that will be ready for production work?
      • Re:Accountability (Score:4, Insightful)

        by RevDobbs ( 313888 ) * on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:55PM (#12276191) Homepage

        My first reaction was "I think what Bill G is really saying is 'our realeses suck ass anyway, just buck up and pay to be a beta tester'." But after readting the article:

        ...Microsoft will release updates every six to eight weeks until the product is finished, said Tom Rizzo, director of product management for SQL Server.

        ...Because of the change in the license and the quality of the code, Microsoft expects 50,000 customers to move production applications onto the beta versions of Visual Studio 2005 and the .Net Framework, the software needed to run applications.

        Oh, I get it... five years ago every body signed annual licence contracts, paid out the whazoo to get the next version 'free', but the next versions never came out. So now we have a new license where you get to spend a lot of money, and this time you really really will get some updates!

        • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2005 @08:23PM (#12276481)
          1. Release Beta quality Software
          2. Get people to Pay You to do their QA for them - ON PRODUCTION SYSTEMS !!!
          3. Profit!

          Don't mod me as funny, because this joke microsoft's pulling on its customers is not funny at all.

      • by Anonymous Coward
        Parent wrote At least Google's beta stuff actually *works*.

        And you don't have to pay for Google's beta stuff - unlike production stuff from MSFT.

      • Google is the new Soviet Russia/All Your Base/Natalie Portman/Beowulf Cluster.
      • Re:Accountability (Score:3, Interesting)

        I have a friend who happens to be working at M$. He told me they started to use VS2005 internally late last summer, that would be beta-1 I think. Beta-2 has been around for a few months, apparently a must-have from what I was told.

        Some betas are worth other's releases and vice-versa.
        • Re:Accountability (Score:3, Insightful)

          by svoid ( 154185 )
          I have been using VS 2005 beta 2 for my day to day work for about a month now. It is functional, but I crash half a dozen times a day. There particularly seems to be problems with the code parsing in header files. I've noticed that if I start a method definition and stop midway through the line of code, after a second or so the parser will come alive, choke and die. I'm tempted to send the crash report to microsoft, because I believe in being an active beta participant, but I'm not really comfortable sendin
      • STFU (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Donny Smith ( 567043 )
        Bullshit, I couldn't login to Gmail for an hour yesterday.

        Search for gmail down and find 1.87 million results (courtessy of Google, if it works):

        BTW, somewhere I have a screenshot of down.
    • by ShaniaTwain ( 197446 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:46PM (#12276045) Homepage
      Did you pay for any of them there google betas? cause I sure didn't, and if you did some varmint mighta ripped you off.

      I also reckon you might want your database a tad bit more stable than you want your nifty little search engine doo-dad.
      • by RonnyJ ( 651856 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:58PM (#12276232)
        Did you pay for any of them there google betas?

        I don't think the price is the issue - people do have a choice not to buy/sign-up for a beta product.

        It's up to the consumer if they want to risk using a beta product (and thousands of people choose to 'risk' their e-mail with the GMail beta).

      • by mingot ( 665080 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @08:32PM (#12276580)
        Um, and the betas for VS.NET 2005 are also free (as in gratis). The only thing that has changed here is that MS is actually telling developers they can release software written with the beta versions in production environments.

        Now I can't understand why anyone would actually WANT to do this, but all they did was give people the option.
      • Did you pay for them there Microsoft betas?

        I sure didn't... fault.aspx

        And if your database is so important that you don't want to run it on beta software, then... don't!
    • Re:Accountability (Score:5, Insightful)

      by NeoSkandranon ( 515696 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:48PM (#12276071)
      if something breaks, the company just puts its hands up and says "opps, sorry..."

      Doesn't Microsoft (and indeed most software comapnies) do that with *all* their products?
    • Read your EULA: (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Truth_Quark ( 219407 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:55PM (#12276181) Journal
      Microsoft has never accepted any accountablilty.

      And never will. Imagine the liability if they accepted responsibility for the work lost to a crash, or time spent finding a work-around for their bugs?

      It's make 5 million euros a day look postively mild!

      • >Microsoft has never accepted any accountablilty.

        Dpends, some countries doesn't allow for vaiwing liability like that, especially not to consumers.
      • Re:Read your EULA: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by quarkscat ( 697644 )
        MSFT did, apparently, think highly enough of your data to make each incident of data loss (due to MSFT's OSes or applications) worth $5.00 USD.

        It hasn't been as if MSFT would actually put the $40 Billion USD they have stashed away at risk . They have offered to stand behind their products by exactly $5.00 USD worth. Considering that they should know better than anyone else what the quality of their software is, I don't see how this posting is even considered "news".

        All of MSFT's code is "beta", and they
    • Which Google beta did you pay to participate in?
    • No (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Selling software specifically designated as beta or pre-release is apparently a Microsoft original. Other companies have (which is the typical, normal way of doing things) released beta and "pre-release" software to the public for testing and evaluation. But they don't charge for them.
  • Beta.... (Score:2, Funny)

    by Shadow_139 ( 707786 )
    Nothing for you to see here. Please move along.
  • Bold (Score:2, Interesting)

    That's an awfully bold assumption, but I guess they don't want to give away the betas, as then most people would just use the beta all the way through. Good logic, I don't see why not.
    • Quite likely.

      I've seen one system running the beta of Russian version of Win2K less than a year ago. Completely infested with spyware and other crap, of course.

      This was one of the most "interesting" cleaning jobs I had, because I couldn't wipe it out. It *had* to be the Russian version, and I couldn't get it anywhere (in Spain), legal or not.

      Interestingly enough, it worked fairly well after being cleaned up, and all the MS updates including Service Pack 4 installed just fine on it. I wonder how much of b
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:39PM (#12275965)
    That un-announced future applications such as SQL Server 2010 were so "awesome" and "full of stuff you need" that they'll be licensing them now, before they've actually started work on them.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    It's ok, we'll just release updates for it later
  • spyware beta (Score:5, Insightful)

    by towaz ( 445789 ) * on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:40PM (#12275977)
    I wish they would just hurry up and push windows antispyware down with windows update. I know its not the best out; but it would stop 90% of support calls because some idiot has a pr0n dialer.
  • Google too (Score:2, Insightful)

    by RonnyJ ( 651856 )
    MS: Beta Software Good Enough for Production Use

    Well, it's good enough for Google too.

  • I think MS is looking at not meeting profit forcasts finally and pushing out software early so they can get a boost to their cashflow early so they meet 2nd quater forectasts is entirely possible. The company's stock has been flat for so long it's just a matter of time before their profits go flat or begin to decline.
  • I agree... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bogaboga ( 793279 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:41PM (#12275989)
    Just look at Google's email service (still in beta). It works like a charm. The same applied to Adobe's Linux PDF reader...even the [Linux] kernel itself, in most cases works, without any serious problems.
  • Does the article say MS is discontinuig the production versions of SQL Server and VS? No.

    Does the article say you must buy the beta if you want to license today? No.

    What's the big deal? It sounds to me like there's enough customer demand to charge for the beta version of the apps for those customers who so choose. If MS has all the "free" teaters they need yet stil has customers clamoring for features/improvements in the next version, I see no reason why they can't charge these folks for early acceess
  • Well... (Score:3, Funny)

    by composer777 ( 175489 ) * on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:42PM (#12275996)
    At least they are finally admitting that it's beta quality.
    • "At least they are finally admitting that it's beta quality."

      I know you meant that as a joke, but I think MS has been doing that for a long time now...

      When Windows 2000 shipped, wasnt it reported that it shipped with 63,000 bugs based on some leaked internal memo? Microsoft issued a rebuttal and claimed the 63,000 bugs was greatly exaggerated. But it was widely believed that there were indeed some 28,000 known issues with the shipping version Win2K. I'd love to see the details of the MS process where some
  • I think it's basically a veiled, yet public admission of their release policies ever since Microsoft was founded.
  • by goMac2500 ( 741295 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:43PM (#12276015)
    First root is completely safe, and now beta software is fine for production environments?
  • by TedTschopp ( 244839 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:44PM (#12276023) Homepage
    Well, normally in the past we would have released it by now, but becuase you are always complaining about security, the piece of crap is caught in a security review, and marketing is getting worried that we won't ship on time. So here have at it, and we told you so.

  • by gmuslera ( 3436 )
    You mean that they thinked that their actual final versions of almost anything were ready for production use? And that now they will sell things that even them say that "probably have errors" before they see the ligth?

    At least that they label the boxes with something like "unsafe at any speed" to give customers a hint of what will probably happen if their use them.

  • by ndykman ( 659315 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:45PM (#12276029)
    Basically, Microsoft is allowing customers, if they so choose, to develop production systems using the beta software. If they want to, and you think it's a good idea, insert usual don't come crying to us if your computer exploded boilerplate here.

    The difference is that Microsoft hasn't usually allowed beta software to be used in production usage at all. They only licensed it for test usage, which, frankly, I'm sure most people were just fine with.

    So, Microsoft is saying, well, heck, if you really want to, sign this piece paper (see disclamier list, etc, etc.) and enjoy.

    I'd be surprised if this really had any impact, but it's interesting marketing.
    • One impact I wouldn't be surprised to see is a little more attention paid to those disclaimers. If some folks do get burned by this, then the legal boilerplate which most people currently ignore might start to get read and questioned a bit.

      And maybe, once people see just how little protection they have, they might realise that in practice, it doesn't have much more protection than a lot of non-commercial software (OSS &c). Which would be a Good Thing (tm) for most of us, and a serious own goal for M

    • The EULA of all MS software abdicates any responsibility for anything going wrong.

      How is this any different?
  • Their customers have such low expectations that licensing a beta should be quite profitable. What's the worse it could do? Destroy their credibility as a software company? Hah.
  • Nothing new here. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Ridge ( 37884 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:46PM (#12276042)
    Microsoft had a go live license for Visual Studio 2002 as well.
  • MS has been giving us Beta software for production use. Why do you think airports, rental car companies, etc have been displaying BSoDs? ;D
  • Yeah... alright, next Duke Nukem Forever comes out.
  • You mean the software they sold before is actually good enough to pass for a release candidate?

    Let's see... NT4 with SP3 was okay, but installing SP4 was a mistake, as all 3 systems that I had NT on bluescreened. After that I stopped installing NT3 SPs... supposedly SP6 is okay.

    Windows 2000 was practically unusable until SP3. Windows XP was horrible without SP1 (couldn't even run it on a VIA KT266A mobo for 5 minutes without it farking up the disk), and just plain bad with SP1. With SP2 it seems almost s
    • No, for NT4 it was SP3, SP5, and SP6a. SP6 was a disaster and had to be recalled and a fixed .a version released which removed a terrible NTFS corruption bug. Windows 2000 was completely usable at launch, I should know I've run it on servers and workstations ever since (workstations went to XP soon after release once our software was supported on it). Generally though I like to run the big apps like Exchange and SQL Server only after the first SP though =)
  • Free beta CD (Score:5, Informative)

    by DigitlDud ( 443365 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:52PM (#12276138)
    Just FYI, you can order a FREE (no s&h) CD of Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 here:

    If you want to distribute programs you make with it, you have to sign the GoLive aggreement here: e/
  • You know, I think that, considering the majority of Slashdot, I'd be considered a Microsoft fanboy... ...but did someone forget to take their retard pills this morning?

    Seriously, this is stupid. Why even do testing at all, just give the program to the users, have something that reports to Microsoft when it crashes, and just give them updates to fix problems as they're found.

    Oh, my bad. Windows XP already exists.

    (Yes, I just did a 180.)
  • by Eric_Cartman_South_P ( 594330 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:53PM (#12276154)
    If you want the features in a Microsoft Beta product, you can usually get them in production quality over here ->
  • by rastin ( 727137 )
    Being that no M$ products are really ready for production on launch date, isn't this really just admitting the reality that Service Packs are what make software stable not QA?
  • Actually... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sprotch ( 832431 )
    That is an unintended consequence of the Internet. It is now so easy to upgrade that companies don't even bother to release a finished product anymore.
  • Here is a page [] where you can order a copy of Visual Studio 2005 Beta 2 for free (as in beer of course).
  • Its just fine (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Grip3n ( 470031 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @08:06PM (#12276318) Homepage
    I like Microsoft as much as most people here, but this move doesn't really make me think " evil". Look at the Linux world! So much out there is plainly Beta, but we all still use it. How many of us were using Firefox when it was still in Beta? How about any other program? There are tons out there, I would assume half my linux box is all beta =)

    So why is it so terrible when Microsoft mimics Linux? They realize that some people are willing to take the risks, so why not let them? It increases the testing base, people are happy, if something blew up they knew the consequences. Really there's not too much of a downside to this, as any linux developer will attest.

    I won't be part of any MS bashing on this move.
    • It's terrible because,

      1) SQL Server is an enterprise-class database used to store critical information, like your credit card number, your email address, your street address, your bank info. Would you feel comfortable if your bank was using this to keep track of your account? "Mr Grip3n, our database crashed, and we lost all your transactions for the last three days... it might take a month to restore your account....". Someone clueless is going to use this to keep track of something important.

      2) Visual S
  • Wait a minute, I thought I was using beta software all along?
  • I understand it's slashdot, but come on!
    Microsoft is NOT selling this community preview... And poster should have stated it clearly.
    It's already ready available for MSDN subscribers, and will be available for MSDN subscribers only, not sold as a aseparate product before going gold...
    It's just license loophole for customers using and already developing with VS.Net 2005, to allow deploying live systems (beta EULAs prohibit that).
    I don't see anything wrong with that (of course you may say it's bad because it m
  • I thought all MS software was beta?

    (or put another way, "what does THIS change?")

    Not trolling, but maybe venting. I spent all last weekend trying to get VirtualPC to finish installing the pre-installed WinXP - finally ended up borrowing XP CDs and installing it from scratch, which to my amazement actually worked. Fifteen minutes ago VPC crashed with an "out of memory" error. (WTF? OSX VM...), and corrupted my hard-fought XP install. Thank god these are easy to back up/restore... though it is taking a

    For a beta version of visual studio.

  • Anybody stup^H^H^H^Hbrave enough to use a beta version of anything from anyone for production use is asking for trouble.

    The point of beta testing is to throw something out into the wild to see if it stands up. No matter how much rigorous testing is done, something is bound to fall through the cracks. Microsoft making the statement that it's "good enough for production use" and asking money for it would lead some PHBs to think they can get in early on the next latest widget from microsoft and assume it will
  • Microsoft is very good at selling called Software Assurance. When you buy SQL 2000 (as an example) you can buy software assurance at the same time (in 1 year chunks). Software assurance provides you with free upgrades for its term.

    If software assurance costs 15% per annum (it can cost less depending on your pricing aggreements), its very well possible that buying sql 2005 today with software assurance is cheaper than waiting for the "final" product at a higher license point.

    It strikes me that this is real
  • Everyone with half a brain knows that a 1.0 version of ANYTHING from MicroSoft is full of bugs, and that they should wait AT LEAST for the 1.1 somewhat less-buggy version. (Remember, MicroSoft usually gets it right about the third time around).

    So why would ANYONE IN THEIR RIGHT MIND want to use a 0.x beta version of their software for production use????? That is absolutely INSANE!

    Chalk another one up for the MicroSoft marketroids if they can pull this scam off!!!

  • Beta-ware (Score:2, Funny)

    by jfb3 ( 25523 )
    Friends don't let friends drive beta.
  • by JoaoPinheiro ( 749991 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @09:40PM (#12277227) Homepage
    Wait a minute... But aren't all Microsoft products released under a beta status? I mean... Just look at the crashes! Whenever a Microsoft product is reaching a semi-final status (usually SP2 or SP3), they just release a new product or OS (in beta status, obviously) to replace the previous one.

    It's kind of like this:
    Microsoft Final = Beta
    Microsoft Beta = Alpha
    Microsoft Alpha = Segmentation Fault.
  • by amichalo ( 132545 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @10:12PM (#12277492)
    How buggy with MS Beta products be if MS has the crutch that it is "still in development"?

    Many have likened the policy to Google's Beta products, but I take exception. Google's Betas are more like Developer builds. Consider In the few weeks it has been out, it has already improved search results, improved print output, added flyover imaging, and improved the resolution of those same images (in the DFW metroplex anyway).

    Now that is Beta software I can handle. When I try to do something and it isn't as successful as I would like it to be, I remind myself it is Beta, but the features improve so fast, I can almost watch them grow.

    MS on the other hand is not known in it's culture for this type of development. I am afraid this Beta release business will just be another crutch for MS to issue poor quality code.

    In a worst case scenario, it will be a way to 'lock in' users with free Beta software, then expire the Beta with a required upgrade to high/over priced software. They have to either switch applications, or pay the high fee. Fair you say? Only if MS is going to publish the retail price of the release software when you sign up for the Beta.

    Image the surprise of the developer who codes up something in VS 2005 but gets slapped with a $1500 license fee when he goes to compile it for production use!
  • by rice_burners_suck ( 243660 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @01:01AM (#12278582)
    You mean to tell me that beta software made by Microsoft is good enough for production use, when their release versions of software aren't even good enough to print on toilet paper?

    Allow me to quote something I posted in a different story a moment ago:

    This is what I love most in life: I have just spent the better part of the day trying to get what is otherwise a perfectly good machine, except that it is running software from Microsoft, which renders it less than useless (more on this later), to recognize some stupid printer. Once that was recognized, the aforementioned machine, which, remember, is less than useless, stopped recognizing the network. Then, I had to spend the other better part of the day fixing that. Then, I go on Slashdot, and the first article I see is about how Microsoft is going to release yet another version of their garbage, which they illegally claim is an operating system, under the false advertising rules, in order to make the lives of innocent bystanders like myself even worse than before.

    Now about that machine being less than useless. Suppose there is a computer with no operating system on it. That machine is useless, because it cannot accomplish any tasks. Turn it on, and it will immediately halt and produce an error message saying you need to install an operating system. That's pretty useless. But it's much better than a machine running some of the disgusting, reeking, horrible, vomit that Microsoft calls software. Because a machine that contains no operating system performs no task, but it wastes not the time or resources of innocent bystanders such as myself. A machine running the aforementioned filth that I described above as something Microsoft illegally claims is software, does something much worse: Sometimes, it pretends to work, just to get your hopes up. Then, just as you think that maybe, just maybe Microsoft's infinite monkeys pounding away at infinite keyboards didn't do quite an awful job as you thought all your life, the machine proves to you, once again, that it is running software from Microsoft.

    Let me repeat again: Microsoft is a horrible, unethical, lying, cheating company. It does nothing except create unnecessary costs for other businesses, unless it destroys those businesses first. I hate Microsoft. I hate everything that comes from that terrible company. Microsoft represents all that is evil, vile, and wicked. And their software is garbage, piled upon garbage, piled upon garbage, piled upon garbage, piled upon garbage, piled upon garbage, piled upon garbage, piled upon garbage, piled upon garbage, piled upon garbage, et cetera, ad nauseum. Microsoft. Where do you want to waste your day?

    Oh, and did I mention that the only reason we have that trash on this computer is that we have no choice? Yup, that's right. There is no open-source alternative to Autocad, a program we must use because our customers demand it. Even programs that can input and output Autocad's crooked file format won't work because they create certain problems. Only Autocad is effective at doing this work. And Autocad only works under Windows, as do most of the other serious CAD/CAM solutions. These companies, for some reason, continue to support Microsoft, and they refuse to create ports for other operating systems, not knowing that just about everybody in this industy to whom I spoke agrees that they would switch to anything else if only Autocad were available for that platform. So here we are, stuck using Windows, years after we decided to phase that trash out and use something that actually works. And then, after a day of completely wasting my time, when I had many, many things on the list that needed to get done, I open Slashdot and see an article about how Microsoft, may the devil curse the souls of everybody who works there, owns stock in Microsoft, or believes that their software is actually good, is going to release yet another version of their trash unto the world.

    That pretty much sums it all up.
  • by mcbevin ( 450303 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:35AM (#12279430) Homepage
    I've used last month's release as well as the first beta release, and they are nothing like what I would expect from production software.

    Sure theres a _lot_ of nice new stuff in there (a lot of which has been around a while in open and non open source java IDEs), but the releases fully deserve their beta / alpha statuses from my experience.

    Microsoft's basic problem is that it's unable to release software at anything like regular intervals. Whereas the MacOS is updated once or twice a year, Microsoft is struggling to release Longhorn after what, 5+ years. Ditto for IE. Visual Studio has also been waiting far longer for an update than its competition. Trying to sell your beta software might sound like a solution to this problem, but its not if the beta software really is only beta quality.

    In the internet age, where a year can see immense changes and where the companies pushing those changes are no longer Microsoft, either Microsoft has to speed up its processes or its monopoly is bound to slowly fade.
  • by gatkinso ( 15975 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @08:39AM (#12280315)
    How many next versions contain bug fixes? There is no clear "beta" demarcation - it is simply a continuum at which a point is reached where "management" decides a product is good enough. This is true of all software.
  • by fizban ( 58094 ) <> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @09:20AM (#12280619) Homepage
    Root is safe.
    Beta is production.
    Cats and Dogs, living together.
    Mass hysteria, people!

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