Windows Insider Program – Beta Testing or Early Access?

Windows Insider Program – Beta Testing or Early Access?

I’ve been thinking about this and talking about it on the podcast so today I’ve decided to commit my thoughts to a blog post to see how the community feels.  Now don’t misunderstand my intentions here, the Windows Insider Program is a very welcome early access program that I’m happy to be a part of, but is it really beta testing or even providing any real guidance to Microsoft?

This has been the release cycle of Windows 10 Preview Releases:

Build Released Days
9841 October 1st 2014
9860 October 21st 2014 20
9879 November 12th 2014 22
9926 January 23rd 2015 72
10041 March 18th 2015 54
10049 March 30th 2015 12
10061 April 22nd 2015 23
10074 April 29th 2015 7
10122 May 20th 2015 21

 

That last entry is based on information from Gabe Aul (twitter) that we might see a new build today.  Now there have been some small gaps between builds but overall the gap is weeks between each preview build.  Microsoft will have it’s own internal automated testing processes so any build over a few days old will have had all but the most obscure bugs uncovered.  Where the Insiders Program comes into this is access to a much broader set of hardware so very possible we could uncover one of those which is very positive for the final release.  So while there is a possibility of this access providing “beta” feedback to Microsoft it isn’t their primary feedback process and certainly not on builds over 2-3 weeks old.

Then there is the feedback on the interface and overall user experience.  We have seen Joe Belfiore (twitter) presenting at the Build Conference 2015 Keynote using various Windows 10 builds showing different iterations of the Start Menu and overall UI/UX.  There have also been leaked builds showing how the Start Menu is evolving.  This means that the builds released to the Insiders Program are already out of date so are they really gathering feedback on something that has already evolved?  Now again some feedback using telemetry from Insider builds might help fine tune some elements but overall Microsoft has already moved on.

The last point I’d like to make is that rumours are speculating on July 2015 for the final Windows 10 for “desktops” code to be released.  At the very least Microsoft has committed to a release in summer 2015 so by now we should be seeing more frequent builds that show similar stability to the Windows 7 and Windows 8 release candidates.  This should allow us Windows Insiders to receive weekly builds but that still isn’t happening.  What I think we are seeing are older branches that have been forked to get them to a level ready for us to preview.

As I said I am really enjoying being one of the Windows Insiders but I suspect what we are really being exposed to are carefully curated builds from a separate branch.  I’ve no doubt that when Microsoft first started this program it expected to be able to release these preview builds more frequently but I suspect the strain on team resources has been more than expected.  Ultimately what we are seeing is great pre-release coverage for Microsoft, hopefully sending a clear message that Windows 10 is not Windows 8, from a very vocal crowd of enthusiasts.  I really hope this program continues long beyond the launch of Windows 10.

So, what are your thoughts; Are we really beta testers providing invaluable insight to show stopper bugs and design decisions or just enjoying early access to future Windows releases?

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One thought on “Windows Insider Program – Beta Testing or Early Access?

  1. I don’t believe our opinion really matters. It hasn’t mattered much earlier, why would it matter now. All features are already decided long time ago. It’s easy to prove against my assumption as there is so many insiders and you can easily match feedback with anything that is implemented and say it was implemented based on feedback X and Y. Having said that, Microsoft has always had great long sight vision (which I’ve learned to appreciate over the years) and if they would listen to feedback too much we would be stuck with XP and Aero forever.

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