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MS nixes MSDN WinXP Beta 2 downloads

And makes a complete horlicks of the Preview Program...

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Microsoft seems to have made a total pig's ear of WinXP beta access for MSDN subscribers, and has compounded this by inflicting another one of those online foul-ups it's so good at on would-be Preview Program buyers. Due credit to Paul Thurrott of WinInfo for digging this one out - Register Preview Program subscriber William H Spam III has just been sitting there like a dummy waiting for the alert email from MS, so missed all the action.

Microsoft was going to make XP Beta 2 available for download by MSDN (Microsoft Developer Network) subscribers, who all pay a substantial amount of money for early access to Microsoft products, and are therefore not likely to be best pleased by the company's failure to deliver. We know for a fact that download access for MSDN was still being considered at the weekend, but clearly Microsoft must have decided against it at the last moment.

The reason offered by Microsoft is the dreaded Product Activation system, which requires that the downloaders have product activation keys to enter. Beta testers have these, but MSDN subscribers don't, and although Microsoft intends to have a system for distributing keys electronically by the time XP ships, it hasn't got one right now. Yes, we know, there are universal keys they could use posted all over the Web, but somehow we don't think Microsoft would be very happy about that.

CDs of Beta 2 are being sent out, but Paul's got conflicting information on when. It might be yesterday, today, or it might be the first week in May. MSDN subscribers might consider that quite a few people who aren't on the beta test, haven't gone for the Preview Program and haven't stumped up for MSDN are already downloading illicit Beta 2 code. Go figure territory, surely...

The Preview Program mess probably also relates to the product keys, but included magically changing terms and conditions as well. According to Paul, the first 20,000 people to access the site were offered a download of Beta 2 for $9.95, but then found they couldn't download it after all once they'd paid up. Now the site offers CDs of RC1 and RC2 for $19.95, and downloads of RC1 and RC2 for $9.95. But as they're not out yet, you can't download them. It does however suggest that Microsoft expects to have electronic key distribution in place by RC1. Fingers crossed, people. ®

Related Link:
Paul's story, in which he sounds remarkably like a hacked-off MSDN subscriber

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