Microsoft Transforms Customers to Beta Testers

Two weeks ago Microsoft promised a whole new approach to roadmaps and future releases when it announced that it would be posting regular, publicly accessible updates to the Office 365 roadmap. Transparency is the new black at Microsoft, it seems.

Today it has taken one step further and has made a public call for beta testers of it is new Office products. Not exactly what you want to be doing over the summer, you might think, but there is a couple of interesting new products in the offing that you could end up testing.

Office Apps Testing

The call for testers is part of a newly launched pre-release program for both home and business users. Needless to say, like most of Microsoft’s products these days, you have to have signed up to the existing programs to participate.

As a reward for signing up for the home program, you will get pre-release versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote, Vision, Access, Publisher and Outlook. Those that sign up to the business program will also be offered pre-release access to Exchange, SharePoint and Project Server products and cloud services.

Once you have subscribed to the home or business edition, the rest is easy. Those that are interested simply have to fill out a questionnaire covering your interest in the project and explaining why you want to take part.

Your feedback in these programs will be instrumental in building the best productivity software and services available. The programs will span across the full family of Microsoft Office client, server and cloud services,”  Microsoft states on the sign-in page.

Why Microsoft has included a questionnaire in the selection process has not been explained, but its possible, if not probable, that it is looking to cherry-pick the best candidates to test its new products to ensure the kind of criticism it gets is constructive rather than just Microsoft bashing.

Summer Releases?

So what kinds of products are likely to be in the crosshairs this summer? Microsoft hasn’t specifically listed what it wants tested in the coming months, but there are a few signs of things to come.

There has, for example, been considerable speculation that the touch-version of Office for Windows, code named Gemini, will be released over the summer. That would make it a strong candidate for public testing. However, there are other reports that it could be next year before this finally surfaces.

Office for Android table is also a candidate as Microsoft has already released its new Office apps for iPad earlier this year although this is just for viewing and editing Word, Excel and PowerPoint with users clamoring for better functionality and more app selection almost as soon as it w as released.

The invitation to take part in the pre-release program is an interesting one and offers all kinds of possibilities to would-be testers. But the initiative itself is off to a rocky start: the sign-in page as of the time of writing still isn’t working. Maybe someone should have tested it.

Title image by bibiphoto /