As Robert Green notes on his blog, the first Tech Preview for VS 2005 was given out this week at VSLive. I'm really psyched about these previews because I think that they'll help to make our software better and our beta cycle shorter. Why? One purpose of our betas is to get a large amount of feedback for the product. If you think about it, a beta ships on month one, it takes around 1-2 months for it to get to people and for them to work with it, then feedback starts coming in. If we want to make changes based on that feedback, it gets harder to do as we get closer to our ship dates.
Down the road, I hope that the Tech Previews will become regular releases - not all features will work (as Robert describes), but we'll get feedback regularly on what does work. Then betas will be geared mainly around clearing out the bugs and getting all the features in good shape so that people can work with them as a whole. It also means that those customers who've worked with the Tech Previews will have a shorter ramp up on the beta, getting us that feedback quicker.
I expect that there will be some problems that we have to solve as we move in this direction (for instance, we're not yet set on making this downloadable), but I'm really looking forward to seeing how this goes.