Software's perpetual beta

by Paul Jay,

Well, that didn't take long. Less than a day after IT consultant Capgemini said it would recommend Google Apps Premiere Edition (GAPE) for its business clients, a Microsoft email surfaces offering a top 10 "questions that enterprises should ask when considering the switch to GAPE."

Blogger Mary Jo Foley posted the list after receiving it via an emailed statement, attributable to a “corporate spokesperson," she writes. The list is here.

One criticism in particular stands out, in question No. 2:

"Google has a history of releasing incomplete products, calling them beta software, and issuing updates on a 'known only to Google' schedule – this flies in the face of what enterprises want and need in their technology partners – what is Google doing that indicates they are in lock step with customer needs?"

Say, isn't it patch Tuesday today?

It's true Google loves its perpetual beta testing - isn't Gmail still a beta? - but in some ways, this may be a more honest approach.'s Becky Hodge has a great piece in the New Statesman on this very thing. As she writes:

"Perpetual beta" has thus emerged as a state of mind. As the Google philosophy supposedly goes, why tell your customers a product is finished when they might very well tell you how it could work better? Perpetual beta, as well as being a convenient apology for bugs and glitches (the BBC has recently justified its exclusion of Mac and Linux users from its on-demand TV service the iPlayer by claiming that "it's in beta"), invites your users to become co-developers.

At least with software, such co-operative sharing can be possible. Consider the plight of consumers buying the latest hardware. As my colleague Peter Nowak writes, "gadgets that cost hundreds of dollars are seemingly obsolete almost by the time they come out of the box."

His feature on instant obsolescence is here. It's good reading. Now if you'll excuse me, I have to upgrade my Moveable Type.

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

This discussion is now Open. Submit your Comment.




I for one enjoy using non-stop betas, I like giving ideas to the creators on how to better the product and thus, upon it's final release, it will be more fine tuned...

I just can't stand having to reboot my computer every five minutes due to the updates though.

Although I don't mind doing that for my graphics drivers, muahaha more POWER!

Posted September 11, 2007 05:10 PM

Charles Witt

There is undoubtedly room for Google perpetual innovation on the computers of many end users and enterprises. Some will hold back. For example, my wife tried GMail and still prefers Yahoo Mail. Yet she still uses Google Documents and Google Chat and Google Search. Enterprises that are comfortable with evolving applications... and I believe there are plenty, will adopt Google Apps. Microsoft is spreading Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt to protect their market dominance.

Posted September 12, 2007 10:05 AM



I'm not sure that the 'Beta' tag really means very much anymore. How many companies release software now without a 'user feedback' or 'problem reporting system' in place? It's all a part of the dynamically updating nature of network connected software. The only difference between Google and Microsoft is that Google is honest enough to admit that their software isn't perfect. Besides, I like the feeling of knowing that the software I am using is still be worked on by the original engineers - that they haven't stopped trying to improve it.

Posted September 12, 2007 10:48 AM


A great deal of software released these days is actually 'unfinished'. That is, there are always known bugs still to be resolved when the product goes out the door. These bugs can't all be fixed, as by the time this happens, the product wouldn't be useful or a competitor would already have a product on the market. You can thank the rapid pace of technological advancement for this problem.

So the real questions are: 1) how serious is the impact of these known bugs on the user experience, and 2) how does this affect the bottom-line?

If there are only marginal losses to the bottom-line, release! Otherwise, fix some of the 'show-stopper' bugs and then release.

In the end, it all comes down to how much inconvenience we the consumer will bear. My personal recommendation - don't buy software until after its first major patch!

Posted September 12, 2007 01:00 PM

Paul B.


Google Mail has only been in beta since its inception. Now since you don't need an invitation anymore, they should get rid of that designation.

Makes Google look kind of incompetent.

Posted September 13, 2007 12:09 AM


Follow my lead: NEVER UPGRADE. You almost NEVER need to. If your business's needs evolve so (insanely?) fast that you actually can't use the current stuff past the next version increment, you need to stop using computers, or FIX that (insane!) business model. "Out of date" software less than a decade old is a problem only for companies that have made a terrible wrong turn sometime since the 1983 dawn of the MSFT-PC platform.

Upgrades introduce Costs, Delays, *BUGS* and Learning curves for little or no benefit, just a lot of pain and operational inefficiency.

Posted September 13, 2007 07:07 PM



Many times upgrades are imperitive or beneficial. For example, tax programs take into account the latest changes in tax laws, so upgrading is a good idea.

Posted September 14, 2007 12:06 PM



Seeing as the idea of an upgrade or patch is to fix something, I don't think it would be called inefficient to have them.

Upgrades are there to better a system, as the name suggests, and there are never costs to upgrades or patches since you have already bought the initial product.

The only time you would have to pay any price whatsoever would be if you are switching to an entirely different system. i.e. Windows XP to Vista.

I for one need updates and upgrades because they keep my systems running properly on up-to-date coding and programming.

Businesses strive on technology, do you, Tim, suggest that businesses go back to pencil and paper? I'm sure they would go bankrupt before the end of the quarter.

Posted September 14, 2007 12:30 PM

Steve Smith


Microsoft is the last company that should talk about other software being unready - Hello Windows 95???

Posted September 14, 2007 08:16 PM



Lets not forget Windows M.E. too Steve.

Posted September 17, 2007 12:10 PM



Or Win 98, or Win XP before SP2, or VIsta so far......

Posted September 19, 2007 01:19 AM

« Previous Post | Main | Next Post »

Post a Comment


Note: By submitting your comments you acknowledge that CBC has the right to reproduce, broadcast and publicize those comments or any part thereof in any manner whatsoever. Please note that due to the volume of e-mails we receive, not all comments will be published, and those that are published will not be edited. But all will be carefully read, considered and appreciated.

Note: Due to volume there will be a delay before your comment is processed. Your comment will go through even if you leave this page immediately afterwards.

Privacy Policy | Submissions Policy


World »

Federal government creates famine relief fund to match charitable donations
The federal government will match donations made by Canadians to registered charities to create a famine relief fund, International Development Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau announced Monday.
Prince William talks of sadness that family can't meet Diana
Prince William says he is sad his wife and two young children can't meet his late mother, Princess Diana.
Homeland Security chief defends Russia back channel
U.S. Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly defends an alleged effort by top White House adviser Jared Kushner to create back-channel communications with Russia, describing it as a "good thing" as the Trump administration seeks to quell mounting questions over secret ties to the Kremlin.
more »

Canada »

First public hearings for MMIW Inquiry to begin in Whitehorse
The highly anticipated first public hearings for the the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls will begin today with an opening ceremony in Whitehorse.
'People are angry': Quebec construction workers protest as province tables back-to-work bill
Bill 142, aimed at forcing Quebec's construction workers back to work but allowing unions and employers to continue negotiating, was tabled just after 11 a.m. today. Debate is expected to begin this afternoon and continue into Tuesday morning.
Farming 'street cred' may have been Andrew Scheer's secret weapon in Conservative leadership win
Conservative supporters in Saskatchewan are both surprised and happy to see a Regina MP become national Conservative leader, and it may have been the support of farmers that put him over the top.
more »

Politics »

Canada extends maritime security mission in Middle East to 2021
Canada will extend its commitment to Operation Artemis until 2021, Defence Minister Harjit Sajjan announced today. The counterterrorism mission in international waters around the Middle East and East Africa aims to deter illegal shipments of personnel, weapons and narcotics.
Heat turned up over Liberal promise of lifetime pension for wounded veterans
Veterans Affairs Minister Kent Hehr is facing renewed pressure to deliver on the Liberal government's promise of giving ex-soldiers the "option" of taking a lifetime pension for wounds suffered during service.
Analysis After Maxime Bernier, Andrew Scheer faces stiffer challenge from Justin Trudeau
Polls suggest that Canadians have few strong opinions about Andrew Scheer and that presents the new Conservative leader with both an opportunity and a problem.
more »

Health »

Sorry - we can't find that page

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Arts & Entertainment»

Prince William talks of sadness that family can't meet Diana
Prince William says he is sad his wife and two young children can't meet his late mother, Princess Diana.
Discrimination suits proceed against Fox, minus Roger Ailes
The sudden death of Fox News founder Roger Ailes won't slow the march of litigation swirling around the network, legal observers and lawyers involved in the suits said.
Sudbury writer Nina Nesseth decodes science behind Orphan Black audio
You've heard of Fight Club. But do you know about Clone Club?
more »

Technology & Science »

Photos Stunning display of northern lights captured by photographers
Canadians were treated to a spectacular display of northern lights on Saturday night and into Sunday morning, and some were fortunate enough to photograph the light show.
Human-made chemicals found in higher quantities in deep ocean
CFCs, which were largely phased out of production in 1994, are accumulating deep in the Atlantic Ocean.
Trapped 'like a caged animal': Climate change taking toll on mental health of Inuit video
The annual ice melt in Canada's North is occurring earlier and earlier, and some researchers say that and other climate-related changes are affecting the mental health of populations in Inuit communities. CBC's Sabrina Fabian reports from Rigolet, Labrador.
more »

Money »

Boeing says trade complaint against Bombardier designed to prevent larger CSeries
Boeing says its trade complaint against Bombardier is designed to prevent the Montreal-based rival from using subsidies to build a larger version of the CSeries plane that would directly compete with its own flagship narrowbody 737 aircraft.
British Airways vows to fix computer meltdown that grounded flights
Travelers on British Airways and its sister airlines in Spain face a third day of delays and cancellations, mainly on short-haul flights in Europe, after the company suffered a colossal IT failure over the weekend.
Health Canada cancels recall of Ardene children's jewelry
In an unprecedented move, Health Canada has cancelled its recall of children's jewelry sold by Canadian retailer Ardene after follow-up tests found the pieces don't actually contain excessive amounts of lead.
more »

Consumer Life »

Sorry - we can't find that page

Sorry, we can't find the page you requested.

  1. Please check the URL in the address bar, or ...
  2. Use the navigation links at left to explore our site, or ...
  3. Enter a term in the Quick Search box at top, or ...
  4. Visit our site map page

In a few moments, you will be taken to our site map page, which will help you find what you looking for.

more »

Sports »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
Video Wayne Gretzky: Stunt double? video
Two years before the start to his record-setting NHL career, and long before he became a regular on screen in movies, commercials and TV shows, a teenaged Wayne Gretzky was a body double on CBC's police show Sidestreet in 1977.
Stanley Cup Playoffs: Full TV schedule and results
The Pittsburgh Penguins face the Nashville Predators in the Stanley Cup final as NHL playoff coverage continues on CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.
Preview Stanley Cup final: 10 things to consider
Can Nashville's airtight defence and penalty killing slow Pittsburgh's deadly offence and power play? That's just one angle to ponder as the puck drops on the Stanley Cup final tonight.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »