Technology Adoption Program (TAP) and Rapid Deployment Program (RDP) are ways for Microsoft to get early feedback on new products or product updates as well as give important customers a heads-up on what Microsoft is up to. Participation is by invitation only (usually by someone in Microsoft’s field sales force), and participants must make a serious commitment to testing and feedback. Most participants are larger customers that have an assigned Microsoft account manager.
TAPs are done pre-beta and are used by Microsoft product teams to get early feedback on which features are most important to customers.
RDPs are done later in the product development cycle and are used to provide a set of reference customers and installations that will help Microsoft launch the product.
The main attraction for most companies who participate in early adoption programs is the ability to bring new capabilities into production with major assistance from Microsoft, as opposed to public betas where you usually get no support. Plus a company participating will also be among the first to learn about a product’s new features as well as the limitations.
As you can imagine, a company can gain a significant advantage participating in TAP or RDP over those who do not. Whether you are a consulting company, or write software that integrates with Microsoft products, or are writing a book (just a few examples), you can gain hundreds of hours of experience deploying and using a product before your competitors even get a chance to try it out. Plus, usually participation gives you access to Microsoft product teams allowing you to often know more about how a product works than customers and partners outside of the program can hope to learn. And yet another bonus is that partners with experience deploying a new product are also most likely to receive early references from Microsoft when customers are ready for deployment.
For Microsoft, not only do they get critical feedback about features and bugs, but the references and case studies they get from RDP customers are critical to product launches and promotional events. Microsoft uses examples of actual customer deployments and case studies to convince other customers that the product is safe to deploy and offers tangible business benefits.