Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Beta is Going Out of Beta

Last January I announced that the tagline of "Beta" for software and web development was approaching its last days as a marketing fad. In that post I stated the problem with the term "beta" with in a broader product release is that most users don't draw a distinction between a beta or production ready release.

The assumption is if you're making your application available, it's going to be fully tested and ready for production regardless of a "Beta" title slapped on top. On the flip side, most companies who use the term beta are in a sense saying exactly the opposite that, it's not ready but we'd like to you to try it anyway in an attempt to gain some market share or whatnot.

Early today Google basically came to the same conclusion in a statement on ComputerWorld. Matthew Glotzbach, Google Enterprise product management director, acknowledged that from the outside the decision to graduate Gmail, Calendar, Docs and Talk out of beta at once may seem arbitrary. However, the removal of the beta label from those services is rather the "culmination" of a years-long process of maturation through which the products have exceeded internal goals for reliability, quality and usability.

In more simple terms he said that Google lacks a uniform set of criteria across its different product groups for determining when a product should and shouldn't carry the beta label. "We haven't had a consistent set of standards across the product teams. It has been done individually."

The article goes on to say that while the beta issue is less important for consumers, it is a major roadblock for the Enterprise group's efforts to market Apps, especially when dealing with large companies and their IT managers and CIOs.

I for one am happy to see the beta tag go away. It's meaning less and just an excuse for when things go badly.

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