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Andrew Koenig

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Beta-testing Two Related Products Together

April 13, 2010

In my quest to learn more about electronic music, I've encountered a lot of software that is intended for use by people who don't know much about software. Not surprisingly, the people who use this software tend to be more conservative about trying new versions than people who expect to spend a lot of time constantly fussing with software updates.

Recently an interesting discussion came up on a forum devoted to some of this software. The vendor had just released a beta of a new version of this product, and people were discussing whether to use it.A fair number of people said that they would never consider using a beta version of any software for anything serious, because a manufacturer calling something "beta" means that they believe it is not to be trusted. But in this particular case, there was good reason to think otherwise.

There were actually two products in beta. I'll call them A and B. It is possible to use both of these products together or either of them separately. If you use them both together, then B knows that A is installed and uses some of A's facilities to enhance B's functionality. This linkage has the curious property that if you are using the beta version of A, you must also use the beta version of B, because only that way will B know about the features in the beta version of A.

These two products are apparently developed by two different groups inside the vendor, and are released independently. In this particular case, A was ready first. So what the vendor did was to release a beta of A, and said that although they were calling this version a beta, it was bit-for-bit identical to what would be the final version. The point was that they did not want to release an official version of A that required the use of a beta version of B; as soon as the final version of B was ready, they would release both together.

Given that assurance, would you use the beta version of A if you did not care about B? Or would you wait for a version they were willing to stand behind officially?if you are using the beta version of A, you must also use the beta version of B...

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