This week we began our internal readiness work at Microsoft to educate internal employees about the new betas. We think now that the beta 2 is stable enough for us to start deploying it internally. It is a fundamental principle at Microsoft that we use our own technology prior to release as a way to improve and understand it. This sometimes gets called "eating our own dogfood" which I think has to do with trialling software before it is declared fit for human consumption - ie when we reach RTM (release to manufacturer).
It struck me today as I presented the Office keynote to partners at the Partner Community Day in Hammersmith that I'm now in my 10th year at Microsoft. I began by talking about how these are the years we live for in Microsoft. The year when we launch the milestone releases of our core applications; windows and Office. This is when we finally get to show the world what we've been working on all this time and unleash our next wave to the 400 million people who use them worldwide. If that doesn't excite you, as I said to our internal staff, you may want to ask yourself why you work here.
Living the beta life is one I have become all too used to since I went live on 2007 Office back in November 2005 - that was on the so called "dog food 4" build. Now I am live on Windows Vista beta 2 and Office beta 2 and don't even have access to a machine running Office 2003.
Even for me, an evangelist for our products, there is a bit of me that wants to hold back from using betas. The beta life is such a fundamental part of the way we do things in Microsoft and it is very exciting to use technology day to day which is so far ahead of general availability. However there are downsides and there is no getting away from that.
This is the joy and the pain of living with beta code. It is when things don't work or crash or generally frustrate me that I have to remember just how important it is that we stick with the betas. Working through the bugs, logging them and feeding back on them really helps us to create a better product. This applies just as much to all of you out there running our betas too. Sometimes its tempting to wait for the release but getting to understand and really work with Office and Vista on a daily basis is vital for us to be able to communicate the value of these products and how they improve the way we will work.
So far, having gone to Vista, I have solved most of the niggles. Just a few issues with codecs for media 11 remain now which is preventing me recording blogcasts for a while. I'm fighting one bug with Groove which has held me up a bit. The posting of pictures to the blog is not working perfectly from Word at the moment so apologies for some text based posts for a while.
I miss these capabilities. They will return. This is the pain. But it is worth it and it's this pain that earns you the right to celebrate when we launch. My celebration at launch will definitely be authentic and fully earned :-)