At the moment, I am using a gadget that, while announced complete with pictures, is not released yet. I don’t want to publicly disclose what gadget this is just yet, but I would like to talk about using beta gadgets in general.
I am the kind of person who, when evaluating devices, programs, or what-have-you, I must assimilate the item into my daily life. The good news is that I have a very good idea of how it works, what the problems are, and what is cool about it. The bad news, particularly with buggy or badly-designed products, is that previously easily tasks suddenly are more difficult. Even basic things like making and receiving phone calls can be a challenge.
Of course, if you are signing up to use “beta” products, you expect some bumps. Even so, there is a significant number of people willing to play with pre-release products.
What frustrates me and many others is that you often run into problems with “released” products too. I am always amazed what get released, mostly due to the egregious bugs I find. And these aren’t bugs buried deep in the product, these are ones that can be found within a few minutes of use.
The solution to this seems really simple: manufacturers should recruit these willing guinea pigs to test their product. Obviously some requirements would be placed on participation in these programs, but it is ultimately a win-win. Gadget geeks get to play with the latest gear, companies get product feedback from real users, and more importantly for the companies, you have people willing to market your product in ways marketing departments can’t. Face-to-face marketing, blogging, podcasting. Sure, a marketing team can do this, but it’s expensive. Since it’s coming from the company, less people are going to take the message seriously. If it is coming from an unaffiliated person (or better yet, several), I think people are more likely to take the message seriously. That kind of viral marketing is priceless.
The question is: which device or software manufacturer is going to step up to the plate and do this? Does anyone know if any company is doing this? Let me know.