One of the most frustrating experiences of working with Microsoft as a partner, selling aside, is the process of being prepared for their next product wave. You’ve read the hardships I’ve experienced with it here from the very start of the Longhorn/Vista process and you’ve also probably noticed that things are looking up lately. The closer the product gets to release the stronger and more complete it feels (go figure) and despite the questionable direction there is something more in the air when it comes to Microsoft lately.
Maybe it was the change in management, maybe it was just learning to open up more, maybe it was the dire need to convince customers that Vista will not be a failure. Whatever the cause was, the effect has been really nice.
You see, about a decade ago things like Technet and Beta were not a common place. If you wanted to test drive software you were on irc.efnet.net #warez5 waiting in a dcc queue hoping to avoid a netsplit. Back then there was no MS Connect. There was pWa.
The effect? Vista beta is perhaps the best managed beta project with near-TAP-like handling. You are in the same process from start to completion. There are extensive and active newsgroups that surround it and are Microsoft supported. There are numerous LiveMeetings covering every aspect of Vista you can possibly imagine. Multiple mirrors, notifications of new builds, active boards, transcripts, etc. Make no mistake, a lot of money seems to be going into the testing and evaluation of this product before it even launches. I applaud Microsoft on this one, I really do. So they probably cut the cost of one extra PR firm generating buzz, skipped about 20,000 crappy tshirts for the launch party and will end up with a better product as a result of it.
Now if they could get a sense of humor and actually get the guy to shoot the Mac user