After two-plus years of development, Windows 7 is almost done. Microsoft officials have been thanking (though not to some testers’ liking more on that later) the millions who downloaded the various test builds and provided feedback for their help in building the product.
However, Microsoft’s brass isn’t thanking publicly an inner circle of about 40 or so individuals who actually were the real Windows 7 testers. This group of hand-picked individuals are the ones on whom the Windows team seemed to count for a lot of the feedback about the various test builds of Windows 7 as it made its way through the development pipeline.
These so-called Test Pilots saw more Windows 7 builds than the rest of the testing community, and they usually saw them earlier. Microsoft officials were especially attuned to their feedback when tweaking the product. In spite of the Windows client team’s repeated insistence that telemetry, telemetry, telemetry! means Windows 7 is a customer-driven release, some believe that the Test Pilots and Microsoft’s corporate Technology Adoption Program (TAP) testers were the only external entities that had much of any real impact on the final Windows 7 product.
Source: Will the 'real' Windows 7 testers please stand up? | All about Microsoft | ZDNet.com