Beta Blues:
May 16, 2001 6:18 PM   Subscribe

Beta Blues: Do consumers deserve protection when software companies sell bad or untested code? Is checking for a patch the first thing you do after you install new software? Aren't you tired of being a member of Microsoft's largest beta testing group...the consumer? Read this article and add your opinion to the poll.
posted by Spanktacular (9 comments total)
The point about being able to return software is a good one ... but this is clearly one of those articles written by someone who has never written code... its very simple, large scale software projects are never, ever, ever "100% functional". Pointing out a relatively obscure exploit in Microsoft's IIS doesn't mean Microsoft is making everyone into beta testers.

Comaprisons to other consumer products are just silly. How complicated is the logic in a toaster?

Anyway, yes, a lot of companies release software before its acceptable (Microsoft, I would argue, is one of the best nowadays, their software is much much better than it used to be, and much better than most other closed source companes)... the only nearly-bug free software out there has been out for years and has gone through many many revs (see: apache, etc).

As for games, consumers demand cutting edge, publishers demand quick release, and sometimes the consumer gets shafted because products are pushed out the door too soon.

Try this question:
Would you be willing to pay 3x more for software?

Anyway, the real way to handle this is to wise up:
1. Don't buy any apps that are version 1.0. Least of all an OS (see: OS X).

2. Don't buy any games until a week or two after release to see if there are any known bugs with your hardware/software combo.

If the companies that release super buggy games , they will be punished for it by lower sales.
posted by malphigian at 7:06 PM on May 16, 2001

2. Don't buy any games until a week or two after release to see if there are any known bugs with your hardware/software combo.

This is exactly why consoles are so popular for gaming, and why Microsoft wants in on this. You have a single setup for hardware. My PS2/Dreamcast/Gamecube/XBOX is the same as everyone else's, and so gaming companies don't have to worry about a million and six possibilities of hardware.

But still, buggy games come out for consoles too. And they are't as easily patched.

But the fact still lays in the fact that the consumer needs to have it now, not a year from now, not 6 months from now. Hell, consumers hate waiting a week. Example... I am waiting for an game system to come out, and it does street until June 11. I hate waiting. I waited for a year for a BMX game to come out (and it sure is nice I can play PSone games on my PS2). But it is bug-free. It is a tradeoff.

Sorry, I know, I rambled there. I apologize in advance.
posted by benjh at 7:24 PM on May 16, 2001

Rule 3.

Don't buy any MS product until it's third major incarnation, even if it is free. How many times have "Gartner" and "wait until SP3" been uttered in the same sentence?
posted by machaus at 8:45 PM on May 16, 2001

wow, buy/free... pretty stupid... going to bed... preview look good this time...
posted by machaus at 8:48 PM on May 16, 2001

There are so many obvious and glaring factual errors in this article that I'm surprised it got by an editor. Assuming it did.
posted by anildash at 9:58 PM on May 16, 2001

benjh: one reason consoles in the U.S. are less buggy is because they get tested in Japan first. So if it`s buggy in Japan, it gets fixed for the U.S. because most stuff (up through the XBox) is released in Japan up to a year earlier. It therefore goes through another quality control cycle.

And yes, consumers hate waiting. On launch day for any console or major game, or even some big name PC stuff, there are lines and campouts outside the big retailers. Sort of like Star Wars movies near a college campus.
posted by chiheisen at 10:44 PM on May 16, 2001

For the record, Apple's OS X is a bit of a bug-ridden mofo as well.
posted by owillis at 11:49 PM on May 16, 2001

I hardly call Slashdot a decent source of info on the value or lack thereof within OSX. If you want a decent review, go to ars technica. Besides that, how many machines is it shipping on right now? None. Only the bleeding edgers are playing with it until the apps come out, and most people will wait until they can run MS office in Carbon mode. I think Apple's soft opening on Mac OSX made sense in order to kick-start the inevitable chicken/egg paradox of not having developers creating apps until a market appeared.
posted by machaus at 5:48 AM on May 17, 2001

anildash, I love it when people say something like "there aro so many obvious and glaring factual errors..." but assume they're so obvious they don't need to be mentioned :-)

But the first one I can name is the comparison between cars and computers (which happens more often than cellular mitosis). Cars are very unlike computers, especially when it comes to maturity. The basic purpose of a car hasn't changed since the day it was invented, but the purpose of a computer gets re-invented every couple of weeks. First it was an accounting accessory, then it was a word processor, then it was used for sending e-mail, then for playing MP3 files, then for WebLogs, then it became part of a home entertainment system and so-on.

Computers and the software they run don't have the opportunity to mature the way cars had. The last major innovation in cars was the antilock brake. The last major re-invention of the car's purpose was with the SUV (which was invented in the 1940s by Land Rover and Jeep) Cars have had DECADES to mature.

Any piece of software that's given a couple of decades to mature becomes as stable and as finished as the average luxury car and the proof is Autocad.

I don't believe that any company wants to ship broken code. But if they don't, then they'll lose the opportunity to ride the next re-invention wave. Either "Black & White" shipped incomplete, or it shipped to a market that was already enamored with something better (that was likely to be broken, too).

After two decades, PCs are still like teenagers, and I don't think they're going to grow up for decades more.
posted by wenham at 8:16 AM on May 17, 2001

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