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 »

Confusion reigns as experts question motive for U.S. electronics travel ban video
The U.S. decision to ban large electronic devices on American-bound flights from 10 international airports sparked confusion among observers Tuesday who were unsure as to how to proceed against the backdrop of an uncertain new policy landscape.
Updated British PM condemns 'sick and depraved terrorist attack' that left 5 dead in London video audio
British Prime Minister Theresa May is condemning the "sick and depraved terrorist attack" in London that left at least five people dead and 40 injured.
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Gorsuch unscathed facing last day of hearings
U.S. Supreme Court nominee Neil Gorsuch enters the third day of his confirmation hearing — and his final day of testimony — largely unscathed by Democratic attacks, as Republicans confidently predict he will win Senate approval despite liberal opposition.
more »

Canada »

Justin Kuijer quickly arrested in stepson's death due to social media, police say
Police say a man arrested in the death of his seven-year-old stepson in St. Catharines, Ont., would not have been apprehended so quickly without people widely sharing his image on social media.
Liberals' 1st gender-sensitive budget names gaps, funds possible fixes
From offering 18-month parental leave to targeting $7 billion of its infrastructure funding for child-care spaces, today's federal budget offers solutions to issues women often identify. Finance Minister Bill Morneau says his fixes will help grow the economy.
'I'm feeling good': First Nations, environmentalists take fight for Peel watershed to Supreme Court
It's the culmination of a 5-year legal battle that may ultimately determine the fate of Yukon's vast, pristine Peel watershed region, and establish some rules for how modern First Nations treaties are interpreted and implemented.
more »

Politics »

Budget 2017: Liberals spend on training and innovation while holding line on taxes
The Liberal government has delivered a budget designed to brace Canadians for a fast-changing global economy and empower women in the workforce, while taking a wait-and-see approach to sweeping changes south of the border.
Live Finance Minister Bill Morneau tables second federal budget, posts $28B deficit
Liberals commit $11.2 billion over 11 years for a National Housing Strategy
Federal budget 2017: Highlights of Bill Morneau's 2nd budget
Finance Minister Bill Morneau has tabled his second federal budget, a document that fleshes out the details of the government's infrastructure spending and plans for innovation while avoiding major tax changes. Read the highlights of the 2017 federal budget.
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»

Ukraine bans Russia's entry to Eurovision Song Contest
The Eurovision Song Contest, nominally an apolitical festival of pop music confections and cheerfully tacky costumes, erupted into a political dispute Wednesday after Ukraine banned Russia's contestant from entering the country.
Missed, not missing: Richard Simmons' withdrawal sparks fascination
Officially, Richard Simmons is not missing. His publicist, manager, brother and two LAPD officers have all said the 68-year-old fitness guru is doing fine. But he has been missing from the spotlight for three years — and that was enough for a former producer of The Daily Show, to create the Missing Richard Simmons podcast
Alex Trebek, Odd Squad among Canada's Daytime Emmy contenders
Alex Trebek, Jeopardy's man with all the answers, and Canadian kids programs Odd Squad, Annedroids and Dino Dan: Trek Adventures are among the latest nominees for the Daytime Emmy Awards.
more »

Technology & Science »

New categories of dinosaur family tree proposed by scientists
Some of the best-known dinosaurs, like Tyrannosaurus rex and Brontosaurus, may be headed for a divorce due to irreconcilable differences.
Arctic sea ice may vanish even if world achieves climate goal, study says
Arctic sea ice may vanish in summers this century even if governments achieve a core target for limiting global warming set by almost 200 nations in 2015, scientists said on Monday.
Q&A Lip-reading program more accurate than humans could help hearing-impaired
Scientists have built a computer program that can lip-read better than humans. But why? Tech columnist Dan Misener has the answers.
more »

Money »

Budget 2017: Hello Uber tax, goodbye Canada Savings Bonds
Consumer tax changes in today’s federal budget will add to the cost of Uber rides while ending a public-transit tax credit. Those are just two of several Liberal government moves that will hit pocketbooks directly, though modestly.
Live Finance Minister Bill Morneau tables second federal budget, posts $28B deficit
Liberals commit $11.2 billion over 11 years for a National Housing Strategy
Updated Bell and Rogers to ask bars to pay more for sports packages
Bell and Rogers will soon ask sports bars to pay more for the right to broadcast the big game, on top of what they pay for their existing television service.
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]
Analysis 5 reasons why the NHL's Olympic spirit may live on, despite Bettman's posturing
Gary Bettman continues to talk out of both sides of his mouth on the topic of whether NHL players will participate in the 2018 Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea.
New Canada's athletes getting a raise in federal funding
Canada's athletes will see a raise in their monthly cheque after Wednesday's federal budget.
'Stupid' NHL divisional playoff format drawing criticism
This year isn't the first time a loaded division has caused consternation about the NHL's current divisional playoff format, but the groans are getting louder now with no end in sight.
more »

Diversions »

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
more »