A beta release can refer commonly to the "first working example" of a product or system. It is called a beta (i.e. "B" or second) release because it should precede an alpha (i.e. "A", "first" or "primary") release.
A website often has a beta release point, prior to a round of exhaustive user testing. Only after the beta release has been tested, and has gone through further implementation, is an alpha release issued (which may not, of course) be a final release.
- Synonyms and see also - critical incident analysis
When trying something for the first time (e.g. learning to throw a Frisbee) you experience breakdowns in your use of the disc (not imparting enough spin will cause it to wobble in the air, for example), and we use these breakdowns to experiment with reality.
When something goes wrong (a breakdown) we are given an opportunity to learn, because a breakdown causes a shift of focus. This is related to the philosophical notion that objects and properties are not inherent in the world, but arise only in an event of breaking down, in which they change from "ready-to-hand" to "present-at-hand" (Winograd and Flores, 1986).
When an object (such as your Frisbee) is ready-to-hand, you are using it without conscious reflection. Only in the event of a breakdown - your Frisbee wobbles in the air and crashes into the ground - does it becomes "present-at-hand", i.e. somthing that you consciously reflect upon.
Breakdowns can be used constructively in the design process, and are not a negative situation to be avoided. Instead, a breakdown is "a situation of non-obviousness" (Winograd, and Flores, 1986: p.165). The breakdown uncovers an aspect of the design task and is a potential source of learning.