Autodesk has a variety of contact points with customers — everything from a "research project" to a full production "service." My focus has been on technology previews. The question has come up: "What is a technology preview?"
Here are some characteristics of a technology preview:
The point of conducting a preview is to determine if a technology is a good idea or not. When conducting a beta, the point is to determine if a product is ready to ship.
As its name suggests, a preview is an "early look" at a technology that is in its infancy. The technology is developed to the point where it can be demonstrated. Not all of the "edge cases" may be handled, but the basic functionality is present. As such, technology previews are often not recommended for production use; however, we are realists and recognize that this is how some customers evaluate the technologies that they are previewing.
A technology preview is not an alpha nor a beta. When working with an alpha, the customer expectation is that the next step is beta. When working with a beta, the customer expectation is that the next step is production. In the case of a technology preview, there is no expectation for a next step. Technology previews graduate to the next step 66% of the time. The other 34% of the time, the technology preview retires. When the technology preview retires, it is not necessarily dead. It may return in the future, perhaps in another form, but its availability has ended at the time of retirement.
There are a few different types of technology previews; however, most technology previews are publicly available. Instead of us finding customers to participate (like inviting someone to a beta), customers self-select and opt into a technology preview.
Unless stated as a confidential technology preview, nondisclosure agreements are not put in place for technology previews. Technology preview participants are free to talk about their experience publicly. For most betas, results can only be shared within the confines of the project.
Each technology preview has a fixed start and end date. This is so no one confuses them with perpetual functionality. This also marks an interval of time where a development team can conduct a preview, gather feedback, evaluate the feedback, and make a decision on taking the next step or not. When working with an installed technology preview, the code is time-bombed to stop working on the day that the technology preview ends. For web services, servers are decommissioned at the end of the technology preview.
Technology previews are free. Often, people do not realize that.
The strategy behind conducting a technology preview is that we will have a handful of developers work on a technology for a few weeks, get customer validation, and if we get a thumbs up, then have a full team of developers continue to develop the technology over a period of months. It's a step between a research project and an alpha. It's a win-win. Customers help shape the future of our technology, and we don't spend time and money on technologies that customers don't want anyway.
Technology previews are free, because all we ask is that customers try a technology and let us know if the idea is worth pursuing or not. Does it work for them? Customers are often very vocal when technologies don't work; however, they are less vocal when they do. Part of a technology preview is to measure sentiment (positive or negative) and volume of feedback. So trying something and liking it but not telling us, is the same as not trying it. We need the affirmation for the technology to take the next step. Obtaining the thumbs up or thumbs down from customers is the purpose of conducting the preview.
Thanks to everyone who participates in our technology previews.
Technology is alive in the lab.