As you may have read on GigaOM and elsewhere, new Google acquisition GrandCentral got themselves in a bit of a pickle this week. Due to some issues with a small pre-acquisition local carrier, they were forced to change the “one number (not so) for life” for 434 GrandCentral users. Yours truly was one of the users affected, and I’ve spent a bit of time this week trying to track down all those locations where my soon-to-be old phone number is listed. Not easy. I was given only a week for the transition.
After the flurry of negative publicity, the co-founders of GrandCentral (who have personally been very supportive) have posted an explanation on their blog. Despite this snafu, I am still a happy GrandCentral user. My GrandCentral account gives me the freedom to come and go as I please during my work day without worrying about missing any work-related phone calls…and I have a phone number in the same area code as my organization’s headquarters. Before the company was purchased by Google, I was fully expecting a premium upgrade option at some point that I would have gladly paid (if the pricing were reasonable, of course).
GrandCentral is a relatively new service, and I knew the risks I was taking by using a beta service on the production server of my business life. Or did I? Could it be, as Russell Shaw suggests, that the term “beta” has lost all meaning:
Time was when “beta” meant an early version of a product, made available to a very few, with engineers, developers and others recruiting knowledgeable testers to be part of the development process.
Now, more often then not, “beta” has become a marketing term, a come-on to get your product or software early.
Are you more or less hesitant when you see the word “beta” incorporated into a startup’s logo when it comes to the tools you use for your web working life? After all, Gmail is still in beta years after it launched, and years after many consider it their primary email address. I know I would be absolutely lost if anything happened to the also beta Google Calendar. Should I be giving my reliance on those services extra thought, given their beta status?
Do you think “beta” is a way that a company can absolve itself of any unforseen data mishaps? Do you think it makes a difference whether a product is in private or public beta? Share your thoughts in the comments.