Endless beta testing does still not guarantee a bug-free program, as Microsoft found out a few weeks ago. Recently, a major flaw was discovered by a Russian programmer, in Windows Vista that was released to businesses earlier this month.
This particular flaw allows a user with standard user system priviliges to gain access to restricted tools without a administrator's permission. This is of course only through physical access, but it's still a major flaw. Another one also present was a bug in Internet Explorer 7 that allowed hackers to install code into the client just by simply visiting their site.
Microsoft has been made aware of the problem, and is fixing it. Fortunately for them, this version of Vista has only been sold to corporations and beta testers, so they don't have to worry about making consumers aware of the flaw.
The problem with these flaws is not that bugs don't happen; they of course happen to the best of programmers. The problem is that Microsoft has spent 5 and a half years developing Vista, and a huge amount of that time was beta testing. Now, although it's nice to try to get the program as bug-free as you can before releasing it, there's a point where you have to release it, bugs and all.
If we spent all our time fixing bugs, we wouldn't be able to code any new features, and most important the consumer gets delayed. By now, the suprise of Vista is spoiled. We've been seeing screenshots all year long, people giving reviews of it, and having it released to corporations already.
Interestingly enough, the way Microsoft developed Vista is contrary to the way they normally write software, quickly releasing the software and then allowing the consumers to bug-test the software. Windows XP was pretty much released this way, and look how successful it worked. Microsoft should have realized that that method worked for them. They key to experimenting is to find what works for you. Apple tends to release its software with very little software bugs, however they don't allow a whole lot of publicity in the beta-testing stage, often releasing software/hardware without any prior notice.
Microsoft should not do this. For some reason, their software is bug-prone initially. So what? Just get it out, and the major bugs will soon be exposed ready to be fixed. Me? I highly doubt that Vista will fail, but it will likely take some time until people buy new computers, getting Vista included with it. And by that time, Vista will probably be bug-free, but not in the way that Microsoft intends.