Apple returns to beta testing with Yosemite, just as Microsoft downplays the ritual
'Feels like a PR exercise,' says analyst of Apple's decision to publicly beta test OS X
Computerworld - Apple has returned to public beta testing of its Mac operating system after a 14-year absence, just as rival Microsoft has begun backing away from the practice.
On Monday, Apple said that it would expand a small public beta program that launched in April to include OS X Yosemite, the visually-revamped upgrade expected to release this fall. Previously, only registered developers -- admittedly a low bar, as Apple lets anyone with $99 become one -- have been able to obtain Apple pre-release software.
"We're doing something a little unusual as well this summer. We're doing a public beta program," said Craig Federighi, who leads OS X and iOS development, near the end of his introduction of Yosemite at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference.
The peculiarity of Apple's move can be gauged by time that's passed since it last let the general public see its operating system in the raw: In 2000, Apple offered a "Public Beta," or PB, of what was then code named "Kodiak," which ultimately shipped as OS X 10.0, better known as "Cheetah." Apple charged customers $29.95 for the privilege, somewhat understandable because in those pre-broadband days Apple fulfilled the orders with a CD. Apple's refusal to beta test its software has not gone unnoticed. At regular intervals, usually right after the launch of a new edition of OS X, users who report problems will chastise Apple for not having widely tested the software before its release, assuming that if only Apple had, those bugs would have been found and fixed.
Microsoft knows better: Historically it has run extensive public beta tests of Windows, giving the public much longer looks than the five months Apple intends with Yosemite, and putting the OS into the hands of many more people than will Apple, which has limited the beta to one million participants. And still bugs make it through to the final Windows.
Yet betas are valuable, argued Wes Miller, an analyst with Directions on Microsoft who once worked at the Redmond, Wash. company as a program manager in the Windows Core OS team.
"Because we were dealing with 'white box' PCs that could have hardware or software from all over the place, bad antivirus, and more, betas -- and especially install fairs -- were useful to gauge real world experiences of what was, and was not working correctly, early," Miller recounted in an email reply to questions. "I saw them as an invaluable cycle of the development process."
In general, betas serve three purposes, said Miller: feedback on what new features are or are not working as intended, feedback on what once worked but now broken, and evangelization. "One can argue about the order of those in importance," he said.
Unlike Apple, Microsoft has a tradition of long, large beta tests.
For Windows 8, Microsoft kicked off the first preview in mid-September 2011 and offered two additional builds before releasing the software in October 2012, testing for 13 months. One million copies of the March 2012 Windows 8 Consumer Preview were downloaded in its first 24 hours of availability, according to Microsoft.
The cycle before that, Microsoft shipped Windows 7 nine months after it kicked off the first beta in January 2009. Although Microsoft had initially set a limit of 2.5 million participants, it scratched that after a botched start and eventually extended availability long enough to make some wonder if there had been as much interest as the company claimed.
- QuickPoll: Is Apple smart to release a public beta of OS X Yosemite?
- Apple unwraps OS X Yosemite public beta Thursday
- OS X Yosemite public beta nears release
- Dev interest in OS X Yosemite is 4X what it was for Mavericks in '13
- Google answers Apple's 'Continuity' with partial measures
- Support clock ticks on Office for Mac 2011, but heir nowhere in sight
- OS X Snow Leopard desertion rate accelerates after patches stop
- Yosemite's 'Handoff' will work only on Macs less than 2-3 years old
- Microsoft should grab Apple's 'Handoff' for Office
- Devs can 'Handoff' iOS apps to browser-based UIs on Macs
- Comprehensive Advanced Threat Defense The hot topic in the information security industry these days is "Advanced Threat Defense" (ATD). This paper describes a comprehensive, network-based approach to...
- Advanced Threat Defense: A Comprehensive Approach In this interview, Peter George, president, General Dynamics Fidelis Cybersecurity Solutions, explains why we need more than anti-malware, and what constitutes a comprehensive...
- Market Overview: Digital Customer Experience Delivery Platforms Forrester states that businesses today struggle to understand and use the tools necessary to create and manage unified, multichannel digital customer experiences across...
- The Growing Demand for Rich Media This white paper discusses how IBM Customer Experience Suite Rich Media Edition can automate rich media workflows, from collaborating with creative agencies and...
- It's not too late...Get Your Mobile Questions Answered Live! How can IT provide seamless and secure mobile communications and collaboration for all? Join this live Webcast as IDG asks an expert panel...
- On-demand webinar - 7 Keys to Service Catalog Implementation Success Watch this webinar to learn 7 crucial keys to make your service catalog a success! All Mac OS X White Papers | Webcasts
Our new weekly Consumerization of IT newsletter covers a wide range of trends including BYOD, smartphones, tablets, MDM, cloud, social and what it all means for IT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!