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How can I get hold of Windows Vista Beta software? How much is TechNet Plus?

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Following my post about recent builds of Windows Vista I received a comment from hir8er pertaining to frustration about the cost or difficulty of getting hold of the Beta software.

This is the only blog post I've written over the last couple of years where I mention the price of anything or "push a product" BUT in this case a TechNet Plus subscription may be of interest - it entitles the subscriber to full access to full versions of Microsoft's infrastructure software INCLUDING Betas.

The TechNet price list specifies that you could use a TechNet Plus Single User subscription which will cost $499 per user per year. Standard TechNet costs $355.

What do you get for your money? What is the difference between TechNet Standard and TechNet Plus? Why pay for a TechNet subscription? Details of what you get for your money are located here. I've cut 'n' pasted the following summary from the site:

The TechNet Standard Subscription delivers:
• How-to information including the Microsoft Knowledge Base, Service Packs, Security Updates, and Resource Kits.

• Access to Online Concierge for live help from a Microsoft Online Assistant, who will help you pinpoint technical content on your subscription media, the Microsoft Knowledge Base, and other Microsoft online resources.2

Subscribe to TechNet Plus and you will also receive:
• New! Full-version software licensed for evaluation purposes. Includes Microsoft Office System and Windows Server System software.1

• New! Enhanced support options including two complimentary technical support incidents to help you resolve mission-critical system issues.2

• New! A 20% discount on additional phone support for supported Microsoft software.3

• Unlimited Managed Newsgroup support. Post your technical questions in over 100 public newsgroups.2

• Beta software. Get pre-release versions of Microsoft software to keep up to date on the latest technologies.

  • I am a Technet Plus subscriber, and do find it extremely valuable. However, subscribing in order to get access to the latest beta code would in my view be a mistake, as Technet Plus subscibers get sent the Beta versions of Vista between one month and three months after their release to official beta testers. It is VERY frustrating. I have heard that steps are in progress to resolve this - I hope so :-)

  • Hi Richard> Thanks for your candid feedback. I didn't know it took so long and agree that's pointless. Do you get access to a download area of the TechNet Plus member's site? MSDN are able to do so therefore TechNet should be able to too. I know such files can be large. Please let me know what the case is.
    I'll speak to those that run TechNet in the UK to find out more too.

  • Steve -

    I've actually been considering a TechNet Plus subscription for just this reason. I've been staying away from the eraly betas, but knowing that beta2/RC0 is just around the corner, I'm starting to get interested!

    Richard's comment just placed a hold on my plan to buy a TNP subscription. If you could find out whether TNP subscribers have access to a fresh download area, that would be enormously helpful...

    Word has it that MSDN folks also get access to Vista betas. Is the MSDN beta download area fresher? Which MSDN plans (if any) include beta access? Inquiring minds ...

  • Just one thing Steve -

    Even as an MSDN Universal customer, we only get the "landmark" CTP releases and betas, all of the more frequent interim builds only go to the official testers... nor do we get any kind of access to the beta newsgroup to feed back bugs or participate in the test proper.

    Rather peculiar that paying MSDN members aren't as trusted/eligible for testing as people who have just filled in the webform on the connect/msbeta site!

  • Richard & Bryan> I've done some digging within MSFT and gather that CURRENTLY ;-( you can't get access to the Betas on the TechNet site though the team are working on it and in the near future (don't know exactly when) you'll get access at the same time as MSDN - the CTP Betas (5308 being the most recent that's up there @ the moment) are available now.

    I'll keep you posted re. when the Betas are available for download from the TechNet site - currently TechNet subscribers get DVDs with the Betas but as Richard states they are somewhat delayed.

  • Stephen> I understand your frustration. The theory goes that interrim builds (such as 5342) have specific fixes to be tested by those who reported them hence they're not published to MSDN. Such builds haven't been through the same level of internal testing as regular CTP builds.

    It's not an issue of lack of trust / eligibility. I've been sticking to the CTP builds so that I can share my findings with you all - there seems little point having a build that I can't blog about. Build 5353 is the most recent one that's been shown in public & I have agreement from the product group that I can show it.

    I'll ask the MSDN team to read the comments to this blog post as I'm sure they'll be interested.

    Thanks for taking the time to add your comments.

  • I don't think the "quality" of a beta is a great argument, it's all preview code and as long as it's denoted correctly (milestone, interim, etc) then those with access to the likes of MSDN should be able to interpret accordingly.

    Look at it from another angle, since the last CTP there have been some pretty big documented changes, none of which will be available to my guys to start looking at until B2 drops later this month. Beta2 is also apparently the first "general consumption" beta, so MSDN provides us very narrow inside-track if any.

    For us, the CTP builds have been a bit of a token gesture and the strong contrast between Vista and the previous XP beta program will create a degree of hesitation when it comes to renewing our MSDN subs...

  • Steve,

    Thanks *mucho* for being a goto guy and ferriting out this difficult to find information, I really do appreciate it.

    If I could prevail on you once more, though. I'm getting ready to start a little business, basically supporting/implementing MS products. Someone suggested I look at the MS Partner program, and the <a href="">Action Pack</a>b. It's a sweet deal, and actually has more of the stuff I need ... except for one thing ... the Vista betas!

    My question is this - do you know if there are any plans to allow beta downloads by Partner/Action Pack folks? it seems like a wise move for MS, as they'll need to get the sales/support ecosphere ramped up on Vista sooner or later.

  • Stephen> Interesting feedback. If you get a mo. please could you expand upon the "strong contrast".

  • Bryan> No worries. The Action Pack is certainly a good way to get access to MSFT software for use in production environments (limited to 5 servers I believe).
    I haven't heard of plans to extend to Betas but that makes sense as (to the best of my knowledge & I'm not an expert in this field) the remit of the Action Pack is for production use.

  • Just that at my previous firm, as both participants in the XP Beta and MSDN subscribers we seemed to get the same material either side of the fence.

  • Stephen> And you will in the near future when we change the way the TechNet downloads site works - it's due soon - sadly I can't share the date with you as it may change but I can tell you that it's being worked upon as I type and we're committed to improving the TechNet Plus experience ASAP.

  • Great to hear it, thanks Steve. I take it anything which is done for TechNet will also go for MSDN members?

  • Stephen> That's the plan

  • For what it's worth, the TechNet Online Concierge told me that my Technet Plus subscription did NOT entitle me to downloads. When they announced Vista beta 2 availability to MSDN and TechNet subscribers back in May, it was really only to MSDN subscribers -- us TechNet people were told it would be in the July mailing. Kind of ironic that the general public gets these releases before people that pay for the opportunity to evaluate them.

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