There will be a lot more to post about this soon...a few immediate comments:
We have an order in with one of our server providers to get a lot more bandwidth for demo/update downloading...the servers are going to be pretty slammed, but we're doing our best to keep downloads fast. I believe the beta should be about 600 - 700 MB over the net.
X-Plane beta 1 is on the DVD. X-Plane beta 2 is on the net. In other words, we've already done our first patch since the DVDs went master. This patch improves performance and fixes QuickTime movie recording on Windows. (BTW QT movie recording is completely overhauled for version 9.) So once you get DVDs, make sure to run the web updater to get beta 2. With a DVD install this is a tiny download, since the updater only fetches changed files.
The DVD set is "X-Plane 9 beta 1", but the scenery and terrain/earth orbit textures are final. So you can buy DVDs now and simply use the web updater to get the "final" X-Plane 9.00 (plus of course all of the free upgrades and patches for the life of version 9).
This is the first major version release where we've had our updater. In the past we've had to either post a new version without a beta, or put a beta on DVD. With X-Plane 9, the large files that aren't available for web updating are finished, and the rest of the beta can be upgraded over the net. I hope this allows people to participate in the beta program and still enjoy the sim with full scenery.