Aussie blocked from Office 2007 beta 2

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Microsoft Australia has decided to suddenly close down the Australian download access for Office 2007 beta 2. We explain how to bypass this curious decision.

That’s right, from 11am Sydney time on Thursday, Microsoft Australia has decided to suddenly close down the Australian download access for Office 2007 beta 2.

A curious decision, apparently limited to Aussies only – at least at this stage.

In a short statement, Microsoft Australia says that

Microsoft Australia has experienced an overwhelming response – to the point where the programme in Australia has exceeded our expectations … the Office 2007 Beta 2 programme is now full.

Microsoft Australia decided not to continue the Office 2007 Beta 2 download offer on a user-pays basis as the programme in Australia was already full. More than 25,000 Australian users have joined the Microsoft Office 2007 Beta 2 programme to test and help improve the quality of the product.

Those reasons, apparently in Australia only, don’t make a lot of sense to us. The idea that Australia has a finite limit on beta testers and the limit is now ‘full’ doesn’t seem to apply anywhere else.

According to Microsoft, 25,000 Australians have downloaded the Office 2007 beta which is a tiny fraction of the 3 million downloads claimed worldwide.

We would have liked an opportunity to understand the thinking behind this decision but we’re obliged to Microsoft Aussie PR people for taking time out of their evening to tell us what they could.

The Office 2007 beta should have no support entitlement or other drain on local Microsoft resources that should be a concern. The downloads under the new ‘cost recovery’ basis seem to be managed on a global basis by a company appointed by Microsoft, so there would seem to even less impact on individual subsidiaries. The download bandwidth can be hosted by servers inside and outside Microsoft from anywhere in the world – many people download large files from North American servers daily.

Why Microsoft would choose to alienate people in one country is a mystery.

Why has MS Australia done this? Do they think Aussie’s won’t realize they’ve been excluded from something available to the rest of the world? We live on Planet Earth with modern communications – not Pluto.” says one unhappy Aussie.

One major, but mostly unstated reason, for Microsoft to spread betas widely is to promote the product, that’s particularly important for Office 2007 which has features like the new user interface that are best promoted at this stage by letting the technical savvy people trying it for themselves.

The block on Australians accessing the Office 2007 beta has been implemented in a very inept manner. Australia has been removed from the list of countries on the Microsoft web pages that are part of the download process but there’s no remark about the decision to exclude Australians. So it can appear ‘Oz’ has been left off the country list by accident (we first heard of this situation when a OW reader in Adelaide emailed us to ask how to advise Microsoft of their ‘error’).

As we’ll see in the next section, this decision has no practical effect for anyone prepared to make a slight adjustment to the way they order the download. It’s a decision with no practical effect except to annoy Australians interested in Office 2007.

Aside from the singular nature of this sudden decision, people in the rest of the world might be wondering if they are next. Will Microsoft customers in Singapore, UK, Germany or other countries suddenly find they’ve been excluded too?

If Microsoft wants to limits access to this popular beta, they are fully entitled to do that. But to limit it on an isolated geographical basis ignores the realities of the internet, the global economy and only serves to alienate customers.

In the following article you’ll see how ineptly this decision has been implemented and how easy it is for Australians to bypass.

THE WORKAROUND FOR AUSSIES

This Aussie prohibition on access to the Office 2007 beta is so easily bypassed that it makes the edict from MS Australia both irrelevant and pointless.

Our quick test and reports from readers confirm that all you need to do is choose another country from the list provided – it doesn’t seem to matter which country you choose ( though a mostly English speaking one is a better choice).

New Zealand is the obvious choice for Aussies but OW reader Jim J. said he tried (on a whim) ‘Djibouti’ with his .au email address and English language choice. The fact that he gave his Australian billing address for the credit card payment (though attached to the wrong country) apparently wasn’t a problem.

We tried selecting ‘Heard and MacDonald Islands’ which are (uninhabited) Australian territories but still on the list of authorized countries for the Office 2007 beta. The Australian territories of Christmas Island and Cocos Islands also remain on the list.

So if you live in Australia and want the Office 2007 beta, go here, select a plausible country or Oz territory and hand over a few dollars. Microsoft might tighten up this system but it seems to work for the moment.

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