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Microsoft to Charge for Office Beta 190

Posted by Zonk
from the pay-to-play dept.
theodp writes "Beginning next Wednesday, those who download the 2007 Microsoft Office system Beta 2 will be charged $1.50 per download, according to a Microsoft spokeswoman." From the article: "Although Microsoft's Information Worker Product Management Group decided to initiate a fee for new users of Beta 2, the "technical refresh," or update, for current users of the software will remain free, the spokeswoman said. Those who want to test drive Beta 2 to review how it works can access the software for free. But if they need to test it against their internal systems, a download or the CD is required. "
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Microsoft to Charge for Office Beta

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  • by treak007 (985345) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:29AM (#15804426)
    Beta testing is a service to the company that is having their product beta tested. This will most likely deter most people from beta testing office 2007, so the office 2007 product will suffer because of this. Gotta wonder what they are thinking.
  • Bandwidth ! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by in2mind (988476) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:30AM (#15804429) Homepage
    Those who download the 2007 Microsoft Office system Beta 2 will be charged $1.50 per download

    I wanted to joke if microsoft wants to cover bandwidth charges.....but seems thats the real reason !!

    FTFA:

    "Since the end of May, Beta 2 has been downloaded more than 3 million times...That's 500 percent more than what was expected," the spokeswoman said. "The fee helps offset the cost of downloading from the servers."
  • Re:$1.50? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by qzulla (600807) <qzilla@hotmail.com> on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:33AM (#15804435)
    FTFA: "Since the end of May, Beta 2 has been downloaded more than 3 million times...That's 500 percent more than what was expected," the spokeswoman said. "The fee helps offset the cost of downloading from the servers." From one of the richest cash companies im the world who owns the Office? Yeah! Pinching pennies, are they? qz
  • Not just $1.50 (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:34AM (#15804439)
    Don't forget, it's not just $1.50 -- it's also all those personal details like full name, billing address and probably telephone number that you have to hand over to MS in order for them to process the charge against your credit card. That level of detail on each downloader is probably worth in excess of $1.50 all by itself.

    I really wish credit card issuers would let us use bogus values for that information. They need it on file to bill you and contact you in an emergency like the cancellation/disablement of your card due to fraud. But for all the merchants, that info is just a fancy password to authenticate you with. But it also suffers from the same problems that SS#'s do - its a password that isn't really a secret, especially the more frequently you use your card.
  • by doormat (63648) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:37AM (#15804453) Homepage Journal
    Microsoft needs to setup a torrent. Stop being a bunch of pussies and jump on the bandwagon MS!
  • Re:$1.50? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by shark72 (702619) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:39AM (#15804463)

    "From one of the richest cash companies im the world who owns the Office? Yeah! Pinching pennies, are they?"

    Correct. This is exactly how they became so wealthy.

  • by CmdrTaco (troll) (578383) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:44AM (#15804484) Homepage
    And that's no beta people - that's RELEASE!
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:48AM (#15804490)
    1. Credit card companies were providing throw-away card numbers for years. If your company doesn't - dump it.
    2. There is a beta refresh coming out. The previous beta was already tested through and through, so why pay for downloads initiated due to idle interest (hint: those who are truly interested download and install software in the first few days/weeks).
    3. I can venture a guess that official beta testers will not pay. If you are not one, but still interested in a taste of things to come, do you have a problem paying $1.50? Well, then perhaps you should wait until the release.
  • Re:$1.50? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by chill (34294) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:55AM (#15804515) Journal
    One simple reason -- to get your name, address, phone number and credit card number. What better way to get a few million high-quality mailing list additions?

    Not only will you be assimilated, but you're going to damn well pay for the privilege.

      Charles
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:56AM (#15804521)
    Are probably the ones they don't care about anyhow. Sheer numbers don't help in an open beta, unless it's for stress testing a server or something. What helps are people who will give useful feedback on problems in their environment. That is generally professionals. The high school kid who downloads it because it's new and cool probably isn't going to send useful bug reports, if they send any at all. The IT staff for a large company that download it to test against their configuration are much more likely to.

    Well, for a company, or even a serious individual, $1.50 is peanuts. I can gaurentee we'll pick up a few copies at work to test, though in our setup there is very little we need ot test agianst.

    Remember MS has internal testers, lots of them, who's entire job is to test the software and find bugs. Public betas aren't because they don't have testers, they are more for public commentary on features and impementation, and more importantly so people can test new MS stuff against their configuration. With Vista, for example, MS was well aware of the bugs in it. They weren't releasing it because they thought it was perfect, they were releasing it because they thought it was good enough to be useful for people to test with.

    In MS speak, an RC, Release Candidate, is when their internal testers think a product is ready to go. They release that to the public, or a limited set for testing against the multitude of configs. If serious problems are found, they do another RC, if not that RC goes final.

    So I think MS would be plenty happy to get rid of the casual downloaders that eat up bandwidth and, if they file reports at all, file things like "T3h program si crashing on me!!!1111". Well duh, it's beta. They'd like to know what is happening to make that happen, though they already may know about it. they are more interested in letting you test it against your setup, and figure out what you need to do to be ready for it.
  • by Dr_Barnowl (709838) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @01:59AM (#15804534)
    Here's a thought ; it's elaborate marketing.

    As pointed out above, most of the people who were prepared to download this beta software for free probably already have. Now this announcement that a charge will be imposed will have 2 effects.

    • Before wednesday, there will be a mad scrabble to download it by many people who previously couldn't be bothered. By putting a deadline on the charge, MS have imposed a sense of urgency on the whole thing.
    • After wednesday, anyone who pays for it to be downloaded is far more likely to give it a proper testing-out, rather than just opening a document or two and verifying that it doesn't crash. We value things more when we pay for them.

    There's the aforementioned use of credit card details to build up an interested customer base (and I wouldn't be surprised if there was an accompanying list of people to put through a BSA audit should they not subsequently purchase an upgrade).

    I wouldn't be surprised if $1.50 wasn't even enough to cover the cost of implementing a charging infrastructure ; after transaction charges, server costs, implementation, project documentation, etc.

  • by NitsujTPU (19263) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @02:10AM (#15804561)
    You're reading too much into why people download beta software.

    They don't download it to test it. They download it to be cooler than everyone else. To have the new, bleeding-edge stuff.

    So, MS probably isn't getting much useful data about bugs, certainly, if it's this many people, they only need a fraction of them. Instead, they have thousands of users of buggy software, and since they're chasing off a reputation for buggy software, they probably don't really want this.

    So, $1.50. You get software really cheaply (minus support, though, they'll probably be nagged into it), and they get fewer yahoos, a laughable amount of money, and justification for this.

    Don't forget, a lot of the beta testers will just run the betas, and not purchase the actual product. Why get the newest version of office for a couple hundred? You can get the beta for free. Now that it's $1.50, most people will probably stick to the version that came with their computer.

    That's why. Even a small company can appreciate that this many beta testers is not a favor of any kind, except perhaps for publicity's sake.
  • by rolfwind (528248) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @02:24AM (#15804617)
    I would think a company will start public beta testing once internal testing isn't cost-effective anymore versus the public. That is to say, once the internal testers caught all the bugs they can, it becomes harder and harder to find bugs per corporate dollar spent until the manager can't justify it anymore versus releasing it into the wild and seeing what they get there. The trade-off is, of course, bad press if the beta works particularly poorly.

    Of course, if the $1.50 charge now brings a $10 or whatever rebate in the mail later for testers, it will be good marketing.
  • Full circle... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mlow82 (889294) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @02:38AM (#15804644)
    In the good ol' days, lesser-known start up companies would pay beta testers for their valuable input.

    In recent years, people could beta-test software (such as GMail, Windows, and IE7) for free.

    Now we are paying to become the beta-testers!!
  • by grammar fascist (239789) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @02:56AM (#15804701) Homepage
    All MS products are really just betas that are tested on end users.

    Maybe this is why they're charging - so they actually get something from the people who would download the beta and keep using it rather than buying the full version, or dissuade them from downloading the beta at all.

    They must be assuming those people are pretty cheap. They might be right.
  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @02:58AM (#15804707)
    That's not really effective in general with a company as big as MS. You get more bugs caught by people who are trying to catch them, and are trained in how to do so, how to reproduce them and how to report them. The primary bugs you catch in public release are ones of rare compatibility. You know you install Office and also have small app X on your system and they conflict. They do look for that in the beta phase, but the RC phase is really where they clear it up.

    When MS releases something they call a beta they know it's not bug free and done yet, and their people are working on it. It's mainly for the benefit of the end user to test in their environment. Like with Vista hardware makers are writing drivers, software makers are updating apps, and companies are planning for integration. They want this done (espically the driver part) before the mainstream release of the OS. So though they know there's stuff that needs wokring on, they release it as is because it's good enough for testing.

    Remember with products for the enterprise it's as important that your customers are ready for what you are releasing as anything else. I'd be all kinds of pissed off if Vista rolls out, ships with new Gateways, and then it doesn't work with our setup. Well, not a problem, I can and have gotten my hands on it and done testing. Already found one major issue, our Samba server was too old to support the method for filesharing Vista was using. So we got that fixed up, though we are actually evaluating having Vista just use NFS since it has an NFS client.

    That's the real point here with these betas. Give companies time to see what's comming and plan for it. They will happily kick in a couple bucks to do that. Heck another department paid for Vista simply because they couldn't get on to the download server so they just spent $40 ordering 4 DVDs. It's just not a major expense for testing. Even if they don't credit it to purchase, it doesn't matter. The money is worth it to get a test done before you've got to go live.

    For big companies, it's just not the same situation as small ones. Sure if you've only got 1 tester other than the programmer, it's good to go beta so more people can test it. However if you have whole legions of testers, which MS does, it's just not necessary. Note that many large software firms don't do public betas. It's all done internally.
  • by ShooterNeo (555040) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @02:59AM (#15804713)
    The real cost here is not the bandwidth. The reason Microsoft is charging a fee is to greatly reduce the number of people who download the beta. Why do they want fewer beta testers? Because every bug report a beta tester sends in HAS TO BE LOOKED AT IN SOME WAY. Granted, there's automated tools so that if a particular bug leaves a certain memory signature, they can avoid looking at the thousands and thousands of identical reports of the same bug. And, Microsoft has one of the largest information worker staffs in the world.

    Despite what we say about them, however, Microsoft is still a group of professionals. Before releasing a product, they have to make a list of every known bug and decide that every bug still in the program on release is not important enough to fix. They have to view every bug report. They are probably overwhelmed right now.
  • OSS (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Borgschulze (842056) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @03:04AM (#15804721) Homepage
    Why not just use OpenOffice.org... It's fast, stable, reliable, and free, and it supports all the Microsoft Office formats.
  • Re:Full circle... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by DavidD_CA (750156) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @04:03AM (#15804844) Homepage
    It's supply and demand. There used to be very few people qualified enough to beta test. Over time, that number has grown exponentially. Now it is at the point where people *want* to beta test and in some cases are willing to pay for that opportunity.

    For me it's not about hunting bugs, it's about being educated.

    Because I want to stay on top of my game, and tell my clients what to expect with the next round of software, I'd be willing to pay, too.
  • by ben there... (946946) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @04:04AM (#15804849) Journal
    After wednesday, anyone who pays for it to be downloaded is far more likely to give it a proper testing-out, rather than just opening a document or two and verifying that it doesn't crash. We value things more when we pay for them.

    I think that's the primary reason. Even a trivial amount of money transforms the downloader's mentality from that of "free stuff" to "paying customer." It helps them get a bigger ROI (investment being both bandwidth and time spent sifting through feedback).
  • by EvanED (569694) <evaned@@@gmail...com> on Saturday July 29, 2006 @04:12AM (#15804874)
    Hell, I wouldn't even download office for free, because better programs exist.

    What?

    I ask that in all seriousness, at least for Word. I haven't used Word Perfect since it came with one of those strips you put above your function keys that told you what they all did alone, with alt, with ctrl, and with shift because there weren't menus because it was a curses-like interface with no mouse. So it's possible that it's better. But is there anything else? Really? (And don't say OO Writer or I'll toss my head back laughing. OO is a fine project and improving faster than Office is, but in a couple areas that are important to me, they're still at least a version behind the version of Office uses, which is in turn two versions behind the current beta. So there's a bit of catching up to do. Maybe v.3. Here's hoping.)
  • Re:Full circle... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by mobby_6kl (668092) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @05:44AM (#15805048)
    Professional testers are still being paid to provide their valuable input. The main reason MS started charging for the Office beta is to get rid of all the wankers who'll download it just to show their friends how cool they are, and MS certainly won't be missing those types.
  • Re:$1.50? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Schemat1c (464768) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @10:07AM (#15805832) Homepage
    "The fee helps offset the cost of downloading from the servers."

    They could just put it up on bittorrent and it would't cost them a dime. Of course that would require common sense.
  • by LiquidCoooled (634315) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @04:33PM (#15807481) Homepage Journal
    The simple answer is that you and I are not ordinary users.

    We both know that you wouldn't even hear about the SMP problem from a normal person, they would tell you its not working and follow the brief description with "but it works fine in Windows", and thats the rare percentage that would even install linux.

    If you are the sysadmin of a company with linux machines, its your job to make sure its working and you would be the one receiving the phone calls or error mails telling you its not, there is no personal money on your part to lose and you are the end of the line as far as local user support goes.

    As for your gaming issues, if you have installed it on a compatible system (ie, not the 64bit version of Windows) then you are entitled to support for a product you have purchased, its your personal choice to decide not to follow it up.
    If the situation were similar with myself and the half life 2 engine, I would be contacting Valve and attempting to find out whats up with it.

    I have found that people who pirate software are usually easy come easy go and the same comes from trying all sorts of legit open/closed source programs, if it doesn't do exactly what you want, you uninstall and move onto the next one.
  • by arashi no garou (699761) on Saturday July 29, 2006 @05:06PM (#15807570)
    Your boss is quite the philosopher, but he's a bit off. I never paid for The Gimp, but since I cannot afford Photoshop and I don't want to pirate it, I overcame the learning curve and am now more productive in The Gimp than I ever was in Photoshop back in college. When someone hands me a tool for free, and I have to relearn some of the ways of using said tool to get the same job done, I'm going to consider the learning curve to be the price paid.

    But that's just me.

Programmers do it bit by bit.

Working...