Large enterprises and Microsoft beta testers can look forward to getting earlier and more frequent access to software under development.
Executives for the Redmond, Wash., company, such as Eric Rudder, senior vice president of servers and tools, are pushing for a new policy in which software under development is made available early and often, much the way the first bits of "Longhorn," the next Windows release, were handed out at Microsofts Professional Developers Conference in October.
This desire is motivated by the delays of products such as Longhorn and "Yukon," the next version of SQL Server, and to help developers plan for and work on new projects.
Some Microsoft users said they would welcome such a move. "Having an earlier view of what is changing gives you time to think of the implications and opportunities of the changes as well as of the dangers or pitfalls, if there are any," said Brian Riley, senior programmer and analyst at a large U.S. health care services company.
In a recent interview with eWEEK, Rudder said that customers really want Microsoft to take the time to make sure products go through the necessary security reviews; threat assessment analysis; and testing for usability, supportability and traceability before shipping. "Now, with that said, [for] those developers and IT pros on a tough schedule looking to make progress on projects, the way to accommodate that is to give them betas and release candidates that are stable and where the interfaces are not going to change so they can start planning and start production," he said.
"As Microsofts products find their way into every segment of our networks, the more carefully they build them, the better," said John Persinger, internal network administrator for Source4 Inc., in Roanoke, Va.
Rudder said Microsoft will "make good use of the time, and youll see SQL ship with better application support out of the gate. Were now in much better lock step with partners like PeopleSoft [Inc.]."
Rudder declined to say if the policy would be extended to products such as Microsoft Office but did say that "in general, Id like to be more open with our road maps and be more open with sharing our technology earlier."
Microsoft is still in the Windows Server 2003 wave of product releases. The next wave of products will be around "Whidbey," the update to Visual Studio, and Yukon, followed by the Longhorn wave of products.
"My attention is balanced between making sure customers succeed on Windows 2003, that we build great products and that we build killer functionality into Longhorn," Rudder said.