Posted 07 May 2006 - 09:59 AM
Generally, a Beta release is part of a project life cycle, and means that the programme or application has reached a stage where most if not all of the criticial operating "bugs" have been fixed, and it is ready for user-acceptance testing. Obviously, the more fingers using a programme (including making mistakes that programmers would not even think of), the greater the probability that minor bugs will be found. I have written extensively on a project life cycle on my blog here at BC if you are REALLY interested the subject.
Thanks to the folks at Google, an ONLINE BETA, now CAN signify a more or less thoroughly tested programme that works, but will be enhanced on an on-going basis. One example of this is Google's G-mail which has been public for over a year, and is still termed "Beta" as they add functionality to the basic programme.
The former "definition" applies to Microsoft's Release of Vista. Because the programme is massive, with millions of lines of code, and because MS's practice is to "fold in" new modules to existing legacy code, such user testing is absolutely necessary.
For the normal user, who is not interesting in the rather rigorous work of programme testing, it means that a Beta version should not be used for any "mission critical" activity.
Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one should be silent.