back to article Microsoft needs 'off switch'

What are we to make of the latest news about Microsoft Office – namely the story that the company has opted to charge people to download betas rather than cut off the supply? It reckons it has supplied 500 per cent more betas than it planned. Does this mean someone in Redmond forgot to write an accumulator routine that said " …

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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Testers or downloaders?

    The "off switch" would only be valuable if the ones who download before the switch is turned would actually use it. By requiring a nominal fee, the downloaders will then be motivated to actually try it instead of just downloading it. I've downloaded the 64-bit version of Windows with my msdn subscription and I don't even have a 64-bit processor on my desktop. I guarantee if I had to pay $1.50 I wouldn't have done that, and MS would have had better use of their resources.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    How many beta testers test?

    For once i'll side with Microsoft and wonder how many of those people that downloaded the beta actually bothered to report their (or any) findings back to Microsoft?

    Is MS using the betasoftware to market the end product OR are curious users using the betasoftware to get a nice free preview?

    It would be even nicer if MS would return the 1.50 when usable feedback is recieved from a beta downloader though. Heck, they could even pay their beta testers for finding new quirks!

  3. Sam Penny

    Paying for Marketing?

    "modifying the rules so people pay to be marketed to, paying-now-for-the-chance-to-pay-later, is inspired from a marketing department perspective."

    People've been doing this for *decades*

    http://froogle.google.co.uk/froogle?q=nike%20t-shirt

    Cheers & God bless

    Sam "SammyTheSnake" Penny

  4. Alexander Hanff

    Microsoft seem to have it backwards (again?)

    Professional software testers demand salaries upwards of £30 000 per year, yet here is Microsoft with 3 000 000 testers demanding no salary.

    Now granted, the average user may not be the same calibre as a professional software tester, but even at 30% the quality level of testing that is a £30 000 000 saving in Microsoft's wages bill.

    What they should be doing, is paying people to test their software, not charging people to do so.

    Of course the other problem is, as Microsoft have shown in the past, despite the huge testing pool they have to beta test their products they still can't get it right. How many 100s of thousands of bugs reported during beta testing will actually be fixed for the final release? History tells only a small percentage followed by years of security updates and services packs which will eventually lead to the end of the product cycle (when the next version of Office after this is released) seeing a product that is STILL not clear of bugs and security issues.

    If they are going to charge people for the downloads, maybe the 3 000 000 beta testers should start billing Microsoft for their time? I am sure after the recent antitrust action in Europe, Redmond would be more than happy to foot a $50 000 000 wages bill for their testers.

  5. regadpellagru

    Wrong limit to support flood ?

    That is the wrong limit to issues of support

    teams being flooded with unqualified tickets from

    "the clueless", during beta stage.

    It will however be interesting to balance the

    effects of this quality of beta-test "by ability to pay

    $1.50", which may, depending on individuals,

    translate into "having no shame to pay for work",

    or even "being fanatic enough to believe in a divine

    mission", against the bazar schema ("absolutely anyone

    can test/report") the open source community

    persists to maintain.

    Only time will tell, but I suspect, like in the pub,

    the seal will eventually break, in the form of

    convulsive floods of security articles in El Reg !

  6. Harlan Grove

    not cynical enough

    It only takes a Passport ID to download the beta, and Microsoft knows how easy it is for people to collect practically anonymous Passport IDs. However, if Microsoft makes people pay, they get real ID info.

  7. KayJay

    You have it wrong, this is a microsft tradition!

    Ever since Windows 3.1, when I switched from an Amiga, I've been beta testing WIndows OS and paying through the nose for the favour.

    At the moment I'm beta testing XP SP2 - Its not that much trouble, every time it crashes there's a little pop up that asks me if I want to notify Microsoft about the problem.

    This is not a new practice, it's how Microsoft have always marketed their products. I guess in a couple of years I'll pay to beta test Vista!

    KJ

  8. Chung Leong

    What about the children?

    A dollar fifty might not be a lot of money in the rich, developed world. For those who hadn't the fortune to be born in the prosperous North, it's a significant amount. Nearly 35% of the world's populate live on less than a dollar a day. If a father has to pay for the Office beta download, then it could be very well mean his children will go without food that day.

    This exploitative decision is simply immoral.

  9. Mark Simon

    I thought Apple inveted the tester-pays solution

    Wne Apple was developing OSX, they also decided to charge for beta test copies. The trouble was that it didn't stop there. Those of us who then paid full price for version 10.1 found that we were still beta testing an unfinished product, and being asked to pay full price again for 10.2.

  10. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Remember the Windows 95 Preview Release??

    Does no-one remember the Windows 95 Preview Release that MS issued in early 1995?

    It was basically a "buy me Beta" and so many people wanted it that it was a great success for Microsoft - it also helped them "build the buzz" around their then new O/S...

    So many people download Betas these days, and quite often expect to use them seriously that applying a small fee to manage the program (beta program, not the application) is warranted. Especially if you find a "bug" and want to report it...

    Finally - I DON'T work for MS, but have been a corporate beta tester (and private beta tester) for them for many years and have kept ahead of the curve by using this beta software so I don't object to coughing up a little $ at times for this...

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    So who's forcing you to beta test?

    Last time I looked, beta testing of MS products was optional, fee or no fee. If a $1.50 is too steep for you or the principle is not palitable, then (doh) don't test the software, OK?

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Who Cares?

    As a software developer, I understand what beta testing is about. It is not about giving a freebie to wanna-be techos. You have automated systems for test cases, and professional software testers understand and write these test cases. By the time software is in beta phase, you are reasonably confident in the software. Beta is a limited release where you want key users (from your perspective not their own) to put the product through its paces and provide feedback on usability and functional behaviour.

    So what benefit does MS gain by 600000 people downloading the software, costing a lot of money in bandwidth charges? They gain feedback, stability metrics, and it doesn't hurt their marketing either. 1.50 is pretty reasonable though, it is hardly profiteering.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Microsoft "Beta Testers"

    The furor surrounding the release of every version of Windows since at least '95 has shown that an amazing number of folks are willing -- anxious, even -- to be "beta testers" for their products, and will pay a lot more than $1.50 for the "privilege".

    What's most interesting is that so many of their products never seem to make it past beta...

  14. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Eh? When did they start doing this

    When did all this happen, I'm testing 2007 now and it didn't cost me a penny and I'm not on any special MSDN subscription either.

    I shouldn't have given my Beta copies to a fellow tester then cause his broadband wasn't working... or I should have charged him a quid fifty.

    All this moaning about paying to beta test, I have been on the smartphone platform for a number of years now and people like Orange expect you to Beta test their products whilst your thinking you have actually got a bug free, full release phone. Everything costs something nowadays so why are we surprised.

    (Still reckon my idea of slapping a patent on "going for a crap" is a goldmine)

  15. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Beta's from non microsoft sites

    When the bandwidth demands for Windows Vista Beta were so high , some other site made it available for download in order to help take the pressure off Microsoft, but Microsoft got it closed down.

    Now they complain the bandwidth usage for beta's are too high after closing down other site that reduce Microsoft's bandwidth, seams a bit back to front to me.

  16. Slaine

    Over Estimations

    I am not surprised to hear that MicroSoft have been overwhelmed with requests to download the beta version of Office 2007. I myself have had to register 4 times to get access to 5 of the free downloads and will have to register yet again if I am to download any others.

    Whilst MS's records may show over 500,000 requests, this may only equate to 100,000 individuals, each of whom have had this same pathetic runaround in order to try and get some idea if this FANTASTIC NEW MICROSOFT PRODUCT is going to be just as buggy and unreliable as every other piece of unfinished software that has lurched out of Redmond since the move from DOS to Windows.

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