| By Woody Leonhard |
They must have put something in the water in Redmond, because the Windows 7 development team is starting to respond to feedback from us average joes running beta copies.
I hate — hate — to sound like a Microsoft fanboy, but several significant, quick improvements to the beta version will be in the Win7 Release Candidate, which I expect to arrive in April.
Beta testing ain’t what it used to be
Long-time Microsoft product testers have watched beta-testing terminology and procedures go through momentous changes. Once upon a time, Microsoft released “real” betas: test versions offered to a small group of zealots who were expected to give suggestions on the user interface and other implementation details, propose new features, and catch a slew of bugs.
Back in the early days, beta testers would gather in one CompuServe forum and flame each other. Fast-forward to 2009: you couldn’t fit all the suggestions of Windows 7 beta testers into Lake Washington, much less get all of the million-plus testers to agree on anything so trivial as, oh, the color of the Recycle Bin icon.
Nowadays, the unwashed masses get treated to a kind of interim release we once referred to derisively as a “marketing beta.” As the name implies, Microsoft releases marketing betas to pre-sell its software. Sure, the ‘Softies would actively solicit your comments and design suggestions — it’s good marketing, after all — but for future releases, not for that version.
You would rarely see any significant improvements between the release of a marketing beta and the final shipping product. (Vista was an exception — the almost year-long gap between Beta 1 and Beta 2 meant we were actually looking at two different versions of Windows. But I digress.)