So Many Release Candidates, Not Enough Time

Three major Microsoft products are at the RC stage. Can we test them all in time?

There was considerable hoopla last week over the Release Preview of Windows 8. Microsoft can change the words, but we know what it is: a release candidate. This is the feature-complete product, and now it’s bug stomping time.

What was missed in all the fuss was two more RCs of equal if not greater significance: Windows Server 2012 and Visual Studio Professional 2012. These are not insignificant releases. IDC put Windows Server revenue at 45 percent of overall server revenue in Q1 of this year and Visual Studio is pretty much standard issue in any Windows shop.

All of which begs the question: can we test these all in time? Many firms don't do serious test bed deployments until gold code, which at this point is just around the corner if they are at the RC state.

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Again, these products are feature-complete and Microsoft just wants us to stomp on some bugs, but the company will continue to push forward on its own schedule. It would take a real showstopper from a customer tester to stop the release of these products, and while it could happen, could anyone find it?

Sure. In testing out Windows 8 RP for another publication, I installed Google Chrome and it immediately locked up. Not just the browser, the whole computer. There's a good start. That was dumb luck and could have been caused by any number of things. Bugs at this stage of the game are usually subtle, obscure and hard to root out.

But, notes Mike Cherry of Directions on Microsoft, both Server 2012 and Visual Studio are so solid. Customers should use them to start learning the products, not bug checking. The server and tools division may not be as sexy as Windows and Office, but it's got a long track record of shipping solid products and this is no different.

Server 2012 in particular has a lot of subtle changes that will be valuable to organizations, like improvements in networking and storage and Hyper-V. So customers should use the RC to start their evaluations of Server 2012 and learn these sweeping changes.

Much of Microsoft's testing feedback comes through instrumentation, i.e. crash reports, and the Technology Adoption Program, where trusted clients and customers have a direct line to the company. Those folks have a better chance of submitting a bug report than the average user.

So it's nice to have a chance to download and test these very expensive apps freely before they go on the market, and you should do so.

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