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Questions about being an Outlaw beta Tester

(Last updated 2010)

Q. What is a beta test?

Beta testing is a common part new product development for both hardware and software products where the manufacturer allows a representative sample potential users to test pre-production samples in their own homes.

Q. Why would they do this?

By letting consumers 'wring the product out' the manufacturer gains the experience of finding out how the product functions in a much wider range of situations than they would in the controlled environment of internal testing. For home electronics products in particular, a beta test lets the designers find out how the product functions with as wide a range as possible of all the other products that are in a home theater system. Seeing how the new unit works with different speakers, amplifiers, cables, DVD or CD players, wiring and interconnects, home networking and infrastructure systems, video displays and more is critical to making sure that any problems with the product are found and corrected before it is released.

Q. I'm new to all of this, does that matter and does the date I submit a Beta Test application work against my selection as a tester?

No, not at all. We recognize that new Outlaws are always joining our family, and everyone is always given equal consideration. The first person to submit an application is considered equally with the most recent applicant. In certain cases, we may even be looking to specifically include 'newbies'!

Q. Why do you need all of this information about my system?

As noted above, the object of the test is to see how the new product works in as wide a variety of system configurations as possible. Knowing what components are in your system helps us to select a broad range of testers with systems that match up to the product at hand.

Q. I'm nervous about giving you all of this information.

A. Don’t be. The Outlaws pledge to keep this information strictly confidential, and they will not release it to anyone outside of Outlaw for any reason. Just as we require you to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) prior to acceptance in a test, you have our word that we will similarly hold any information you give us as confidential.

Q. Why do I need to sign an NDA prior to joining a test?

Since beta tests involve products that are not yet released, and which, in some cases, may not yet be announced, it is critical that all information pertaining to the test be kept confidential. This is not only for competitive reasons, but also to assure that we are able to add and delete features, as needed, as well as work on solving problems that arise. Since the products being tested, are, after all, pre-production, public reports about items under test could possibly color future consumer impressions of the product. As they used to say, "Loose lips sink ships!" In exchange for participating in a test you must agree not to discuss the test or disclose your participation in it until after the product being tested is released for public sale.

Q. What else do I need to sign?

Our Beta Tester Agreement (BTA) outlines your responsibilities during the test, as well as ours. Where the NDA deals specifically with the Confidentiality side of things, the BTA is more traditional in that it puts forth the general terms of the test process. This sort of thing is common in hardware and software testing to protect both parties.

Q. What would my responsibilities be as a tester?

To some extent that will vary from product to product, as the tests for an amplifier or speaker would be different from the tests for a processor or receiver. In general, you will be asked to simply use the product as you would any other similar device, with the widest range of software, sources and system components. We'll ask you to comment on the unit's general performance, and to write a 'bug report' on any problems you find. In some tests we may ask you to download and install new software to test different parameters or to fix software bugs.

Q. How long is the testing process?

It varies from product to product. Sometimes you’ll have the product for testing for only a week, sometimes for a month or more.

Q. Do I get to keep the product when the test is over?

The answer to that is both "NO" and "YES". Since the units used in the beta tests are pre-production models, they may not have the final hardware and software, and since they may also be moved from one tester to another, there will be the inevitable scratches and appearance defects. For that reason, as well as for compliance with safety and other regulatory matters, we will almost always require that the test units be sent back to us at the conclusion of the test period. HOWEVER, as our thanks for being a beta tester, you will always be offered the opportunity to purchase a fresh, production version of the product for 50% of the introductory price.

Q. Can I request to be a tester for a specific product or type of product?

Unfortunately, not. Our testing process is such we need to choose testers with specific system components that vary each time. Not being selected for a test is not a reflection of any kind on your system, but as good as it is, it just might not be what we are looking for at a particular time.

Q. How will I know if I am selected?

We'll contact a pool of potential participants before each test begins, and based on the responses we get, choose the final list of testers. Since the tests are confidential, we can't announce when we are working on any one product. Please do not call or e-mail to find out if you are being considered for a test. EVERYONE who submits an application will always be considered for each test, but we regret that we will not be able to answer queries about specific tests or testers.

Q. Great, where do I sign up?

The beta application form can be found here.

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