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Gmail: I Can’t Believe It’s Not Beta!
Practically speaking, the change will mean precious little to Gmail’s millions of users

Beta software tends to frighten Big Business. They’re skeptical of the phrase “almost done”, and for good reason. They demand a finished product. There are very few exceptions to this.

Take the recent news from Google as an example. A few days ago, the company finally removed the “beta” tag from Gmail and several other apps. Most people didn’t realize Gmail was still in beta (or what beta meant, for that matter) and most people didn’t care. So why bother with the change? This article from The New York Times explains why:

Practically speaking, the change will mean precious little to Gmail’s millions of users. But it could help Google’s efforts to get the paid version of its package of applications, which includes Gmail, Calendar, Docs and other products, adopted inside big companies. Corporate technology managers tend to shy away from beta products, and Google wants to remove any barriers to adoption that it can.

And there you have it: Although the meaning of beta has changed slightly, the perception of it hasn’t. Even though Gmail was essentially a completed product, with tons of great features and no major usability/functional issues, the beta perception was preventing them selling it to the larger companies.  It might not be fair, but it’s true.

Now consider this problem from the point of view of software companies NOT named Google. Imagine trying to sell an anti-virus app to a Fortune 2,000 company, or an IM client to a medium-sized firm. You won’t get past the front door with a beta. So while beta may work for Google and a few others, most companies should probably get their apps professionally tested and out of beta before major releases. I know, I’m preaching to the choir.

On a somewhat related note, we learn that Google will be creating an open-source operating system. If their past performance is any indication, people are going to love this too. But despite all the fanfare, the beta version of this OS will likely receive the same reaction from the aforementioned tech managers: “Call us when it’s finished.”

We’ll be blogging more about Google’s new OS as more details emerge, as well as what it means for the world of testing.  Stayed tuned.

Read the original blog entry...

About Jennifer Moebius
Jennifer Moebius, Public Relations Manager at uTest, champions media efforts, analyst relations and speaking/awards programs. A media maven and creative writer, Jennifer’s accomplishments include feature articles in BusinessWeek, Fortune, Dow Jones, The New York Times and Investor’s Business Daily. Prior to uTest, Jennifer was Senior Account Executive at boutique PR firm Emerge Public Relations where she managed PR programs for a variety of tech clients including Burton Group, Information Builders, Action Engine, Tizor Systems, good2gether and Harvard Business Publishing.

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