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The dirtiest high-tech four-letter word

"Beta" has become the new four letter word in high-tech. Companies are using neologisms to dress up alpha-quality software to look like more mature code. Confidential to Sun, Microsoft, and Netscape: Let's just call an alpha an alpha.

    This week, I hopped in my Yugo and putt-putted down the peninsula to Sun Microsystems HQ for indoctrination into the Cult of Sun. Although Scott "hair ball" McNealy wore gleaming white sneakers instead of black Nikes and his testosterone level appeared to be high, I still felt primed to jump on the anti-Microsoft starship at the company's Internet strategy briefing. Fortunately, the company served chicken and filet mignon for lunch, instead of vodka and apple sauce.

    I deprogrammed myself later by downing a few Freddie Fudpuckers at the local tavern, but part of Sun's shtick stuck with me. When referring to a forthcoming release of the company's Java Studio development tool, one product manager called it an "early access release." Whatever happened to beta tests? Nobody does betas anymore. Instead "platform previews" (Microsoft) or simply "preview releases" (Netscape) abound.

    "Beta" has become the new four letter word in high-tech. Companies are using neologisms to dress up alpha-quality software to look like more mature code. Confidential to Sun, Microsoft, and Netscape: Let's just call an alpha an alpha.

    As I left Sun HQ, one employee remarked to me that the campus is commonly known as "Sun Quentin" after Northern California's favorite maximum security prison. Indeed, most of the inmates appeared to be in their cells when I was there. In spite of a heat wave and more lawn than a Masters Cup tournament, nary a Sun worshipper could be found.

    Sun workers aren't the only ones with an architectural bone to pick with their company. I've heard a number of Adobe employees were less than excited about the company's move from Mountain View to San Jose. The commute and more urban atmosphere appears to have gotten some Adobeans down; my mole tells me many have moved on to bigger and better things.

    My Yugo decided to crap out on me on the way back up the peninsula. I haven't checked the oil in the thing since I assembled it out of the box. Maybe it's time for a tune up. I hear Tuneup.com may be crapping out soon too. Apparently the Net start-up has failed to secure a second round of financing and is running out of money faster than Grandma DuBaud in Vegas. Your rumors are probably worth more than my Yugo is right now, but I still can't pay you for them. Take pity on me and send them to me anyway.