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Microsoft Software

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.
  • by bmw ( 115903 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:40PM (#12275972)
    Given Microsoft's current track record I would be a little hesitant to deploy any of this in a production environment. I mean... who are they trying to kid here?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:40PM (#12275974)
    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 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:40PM (#12275979)
    MS: Beta Software Good Enough for Production Use

    Well, it's good enough for Google too.

  • by Bruha ( 412869 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:41PM (#12275983) Homepage Journal
    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.
  • by El ( 94934 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:41PM (#12275988)
    It never fails to amaze me how some people are willing to pay for the priviledge of beta-testing Microsoft's software for them...
  • 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.
  • 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.

  • Re:Google too (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cd_serek ( 681446 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:44PM (#12276027)
    I think that pretty much goes for every software in development. The BETA is only a phase of programming. And it is not clearly defined. IMHO, all softwares remains in beta stages until they are abandoned. This is because bug-fixing and feature-adding are on-going processes, and are never fully completed.
  • 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.
  • Re:Accountability (Score:3, Insightful)

    by bmw ( 115903 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:45PM (#12276030)
    At least Google's beta stuff actually *works*

    You can't even say that about Microsoft's production software let alone beta software.
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • by bmw ( 115903 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:49PM (#12276086)
    Their language products have been pretty decent of late.

    Perhaps. I'm willing to give you that... but a SQL server? Yikes. I think I'll hold off for the final release... and then a round or two of patches, just to be safe ;-)
  • by rastin ( 727137 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:54PM (#12276174)
    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?
  • 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!

  • Actually... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Sprotch ( 832431 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:55PM (#12276185)
    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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:55PM (#12276189)
    Why is a Microsoft beta less credible than open source 0.87 alpha 'releases', which tend to find their way into many a Linux distribution.??? ;-)
  • 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 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 Zemplar ( 764598 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @07:58PM (#12276233) Journal
    Isn't all Microsoft software still in beta? Perhaps its only that their software performs like its still in beta?
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2005 @08:08PM (#12276341)
    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.

  • No (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2005 @08:21PM (#12276457)
    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.
  • 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 killercoder ( 874746 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @08:24PM (#12276483)
    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 really about MS buying beta testers, and pushing forward the quarterly numbers.
  • by Urusai ( 865560 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @08:29PM (#12276552)
    Yeah, why pay to beta test dubious code when we can beta test stuff that's been beta for YEARS, and not pay a thing. Open Source is great!
  • 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.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday April 18, 2005 @08:34PM (#12276600)
    Did they omit sending me ads because the thing is in beta?

    Not that I can tell...
  • by mingot ( 665080 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @08:43PM (#12276693)
    I'm not bill g and don't work at microsoft, but I'll wager my left testicle that the backlash from them breaking *every* vb app with a service pack or security update would be so violent and sudden that it simply won't happen. You have (or you may) no idea about the sheer volume of legacy custom code floating around out there that was written in VB. The idea that they would actually break all of that is nothing but the wet dream of a thousand open source zealots wanting to chirp "I told you so" over and over. Ain't gonna happen.
  • by DavidD_CA ( 750156 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @08:57PM (#12276820) Homepage
    You're not a customer of Google.

    It's advertisers are. And I'm quite certain that they did pay for the benefit of showing you advertisements.
  • gmail (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Mr. Underbridge ( 666784 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @09:43PM (#12277256)
    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).

    In all fairness, the only thing still "beta" about gmail is its business model.

  • Re:Google too (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Koiu Lpoi ( 632570 ) <koiulpoi@gmai[ ]om ['l.c' in gap]> on Monday April 18, 2005 @09:53PM (#12277330)
    Google's not an enterprise level operating system.

    Although, that would be cool. I would run it.
  • by dioscaido ( 541037 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @09:58PM (#12277384)
    Revenue is up 7% 2nd quarter [], at 11 billion dollars.

    Previous quarter saw 12% increase of revenue [], bringing in 9.2 billion.

    Hell, even during the tech bust they had 14% increase in revenue []. How do you do that?!

    You have to remember they recently paid out dividends on their stocks, explaining the 'flatness' as of late. Anyway, irrespective of how the stock is doing, love em or hate em, the company is doing quite well.
  • Re:Accountability (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ergo98 ( 9391 ) on Monday April 18, 2005 @10:02PM (#12277420) Homepage Journal
    The difference is that Google isn't selling license of it's beta products.

    Where, exactly, is Microsoft selling licenses?

    This sort of story should have been declined by the editors because it is exactly what makes Slashdot bad- It's a bunch of inflammatory pseudo-facts taken out of context and incorrectly presented to get the anti-M$ minions riles up so they can spread the FUD far and wide.

    In reality Microsoft heavily discourages use of the beta software for production, but they realize that that...

    1. A lot of customers really like the new features, and for that internal site they're will to take the stability hit if it lets them use master pages and some of the other new features. For many firms the stability and API insecurity is worth the risk. We're all professionals, right?
    2. Those customers were going to do it anyway

    Due to this, they make you agree to a Go Live License [] that makes very sure that you realize that you're working with a beta, and presumably that you've tested your product thoroughly to ensure it meets the stability and security requirements for your product - it's your responsibility.

    One other note - I realize I'm not going to convince anyone in this crowd, however Microsoft's beta 2 products have been of remarkably high quality over the past several years. I'm sure I'll get the standard don't-threaten-my-illusion troll mods, however VS.Net 2005 beta 2 has a stability and quality level equalling or surpassing most or all of its competitors, on any platform.
  • 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!
  • STFU (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Donny Smith ( 567043 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @12:24AM (#12278405)
    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.
  • Re:Accountability (Score:3, Insightful)

    by coopex ( 873732 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @12:30AM (#12278426) Journal
    I heartly agree. Windows 3.11 was pretty crappy, and 95/98 weren't that much better, but since switching to an NT core for 2000 and XP I've had absolutely no complaints with their OSs. Even using badly written software that doesn't properly deallocate memory, and generally running far too many programs at one, I consistently get uptimes of over a week, which is more than enough for anyone not running a server or doing some heavy duty computations.
  • by l3v1 ( 787564 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @12:58AM (#12278577)
    Why is a Microsoft beta less credible than open source 0.87 alpha 'releases', which tend to find their way into many a Linux distribution.??? ;-)

    Thing is, when you have to provide you full source code for everyone to see, you tend to produce quite clean and bugfree code, and if you don't succeed in the bugfree part, you always come out better if you tell people where the problems are. If you're lucky, someone will fix it for you. If you're even more lucky, you will be able to fix your bugs.

    WHat I wanted to say is, even though very many FOSS apps get out into the world named as whatever, this naming often hides quite a bit of honesty towards the community, and sometimes people tend to give lower version numbers, or even label their works as beta even though they think it's better than that, for the simple reason that they know: more eyes can notice more bugs, even ones you couldn't find at first.

    In one sentence: I - usually, not every time and not above all - trust more FOSS apps labeled as beta than closed source apps labeled the same.

    [fun] I think even MS would've come out better if labeling the whole win9x line as pre-alphas :P [/fun] People tend to tolerate unexplainable crashes a bit better when they have a bit of hope that something better is coming.

  • Re:Accountability (Score:3, Insightful)

    by svoid ( 154185 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @01:05AM (#12278607) Homepage
    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 sending dumps of all of my open file buffers to Microsoft. I guess that the moral of the story is that unless you get some perverse thrill out of using bleeding edge pre-release software (like I do), then No, this software is not really ready for production use.

    There are some very nice improvements in the new version though. One of my favorites is the visibility of data in the debugger. When you hover over a variable in the debugger, the popup tooltip is now interactive so that you can drill into structures or popup memory windows directly from the tooltip without have to add a watch variable.
  • by innocent_white_lamb ( 151825 ) on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @03:42AM (#12279234)
    "Feature-complete" may as well be in another language.

    What's in a name? One man's "feature complete" is another guys unscratched itch.

    In many cases, open source software is someone's hobby or pet project in much the same way as some guys play with their '57 Mustang.

    It makes little sense to tell the guy with the Mustang to quit polishing the chrome and trying to make the number 2 on the gearshift stand out "just so". Why not allow the developer with his pet database the same freedom?

    If the software does what you need it to do, then fire it up and let 'er rip. But don't tell the guy who's behind it that he's being too picky or taking too damn long. It's his pet. Let him play with it.
  • by Richard_at_work ( 517087 ) <richardprice@gm a i l . com> on Tuesday April 19, 2005 @04:17AM (#12279356)
    Nice to see bad reporting is still happening. Windows NT was not the cause of the Navys experience, a badly written database application was (and since they dont say what the database application was, we cant go around namecalling). Im not a Microsoft fanboi (jesus, why do I have to even write that?!) but to just attribute a Ship Management failure to the OS when the article said that it was the application and database itself is just FUD pure and simple.
  • 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.

Information is the inverse of entropy.