Microsoft to charge for Office beta

Tech News on ZDNet reports Microsoft to charge for Office beta: "Microsoft plans next week to charge a nominal fee for Office 2007 Beta 2 downloads, a move that runs counter to the practice held by most software companies."

The article now has dozens of flame threads complaining about it. Why not charge for it? A nominal fee of $1.50 doesn't seem onerous to me.

I've often wondered about the viability of charging for beta; it does give customers a heads-up and often a competitive advantage over others. But the real question is "what is the point of beta testing?" What's the second word? TESTING! Beta testing is about verifying that your product works in environments that you cannot test in the lab. Charging customers seems to fly in the face of what we're trying to accomplish. In fact, enterprise vendors would probably benefit from more internal testing and much more limited field testing. Microsoft and others with millions of users may want millions of testers; enterprise vendors only need a few. Charging a few beta testers really isn't worth it.

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson

Steve Johnson was a founding instructor at Pragmatic Institute, a role he held for more than 15 years before he left to start Under10 Playbook. In his return to Pragmatic Institute, Steve supports the complete learning path for product teams, ensuring they are fully armed for success. 

Over the course of his career, Steve has helped thousands of companies and tens of thousands of product professionals implement product management processes. He has worked in the high-tech arena since 1981, rising through the ranks from product manager to chief marketing officer. Steve has experience in technical, sales and marketing management positions at companies that specialize in both hardware and software. In addition, he is an author, speaker and advisor on product strategy and product management.

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