> umm, you do realize that even without the formal alpha/beta releases, they still have everything available for you to download and run throughout the process.
Everything except what Canonical develops in private. The significance of fewer test releases seems to be that Canonical will probably drop in their "ta-da" components around the first pre-release, which will now be the *only* pre-release.
> the fact that they want to add a 'ta da' moment at the end and as such will be developing a small number of things separately and adding them at the end really shouldn't be that big a deal, you can just ignore these new things if you want.
I don't believe that. This decision to develop some things in private is clearly motivated by the long, lukewarm reception of Unity through its early iterations -- and I don't blame them for not wanting a repeat. But, when a distro changes something at that level, it's not just an issue of ignoring it.