No more Ideas – beta policy changing?

Last night saw the migration of the Windows Live beta pages from to While this move now provides a central location for all Windows Live services, it puts a question mark over how future Windows Live betas will be run.

To recap, Windows Live betas were previously run in several ways:

  • Managed betas – these are run via Microsoft Connect, feature most interaction with the product teams and can include private newsgroup access. Number of users is typically low. Examples have originally included Kahuna (Windows Live Hotmail), Messenger and Mail desktop.
  • Closed betas – these were run through, allowing more users to participate than a managed beta. However the ability to restrict access (both download and signin) to only certain authorised individuals meant that there was a level of control that could be exercised over the beta program. Products with managed betas typically get expanded to become closed betas, alternatively products can go straight into a closed beta (Windows Live TV).
  • Open betas – these are when there are no / very few restrictions placed on who can use the beta product. Windows Live Mail is perhaps the most well known product currently in this stage.

With betas services now being moved away from, there now seems to be somewhat of a question mark over the future of closed betas. With nearly all the products on the new beta homepage being in open beta, it is difficult to tell exactly how betas will be managed in the future. However a quick look at the previously closed Windows Live TV beta does not show that I’m registered for the beta program (and so am unable to download the application). Also of note is the inability to sign in on the beta page. With early-adopters provide valuable feedback on the direction and stability of new services, potentially cutting them out of the beta process and going straight to open betas can only be a bad thing.

While it is difficult to comment on the future of managed betas, this transition away from is part of a growing trend. As we’ve highlighted previously, the openness and transparency that was one associated with the Windows Live initiative no longer seems to be present; reducing access to beta products can only compound this.

Update: Please see Kevin Briody’s comment regarding this.