Apple Launching App Store Beta Program

Apple’s App Store has seen an unprecedented amount of success and exposure since its launch, with millions of total downloads and 909 applications already available. Unfortunately, Apple has been unable to keep up with the influx of submissions from developers (each app must be approved before it appears on the store), leaving many companies frustrated and confused as their apps sit in limbo.

Adding to the frustration has been the difficulty associated with testing an application. As Craig Hockenberry, one of the people behind the popular app Twitterific explains:

The big problem here is that the only way to install software on an iPhone or iPod touch is with the App Store. There are also no provisions for beta testing… The only way to “test” a fix is to release the changes to tens of thousands of users. It’s the developer equivalent of playing Russian roulette.”

Now we’re hearing from an app developer that Apple is finally going to start rolling out a new beta program in the next few days has released an Ad-Hoc program. Details are slim, but it seems like Apple is capping the total number of beta participants at 100 per app. In order to download a beta app, users will need to submit their iPhone’s UDIDs number to the developer, who will then need to flag its eligibility in the store itself. All betas will still be distributed through the App Store – you won’t be able to download one on an external site. The apps will be directly distributed by the developer.

It sounds like developers that haven’t had their apps approved yet will still be able to participate in the beta program. This should alleviate some of the developers’ anxiety (at least they’ll know their app will work once it goes live), but it still doesn’t address the the delays and lack of communication that many developers are complaining about.

Update: Our source was misinformed. This program, as a number of commentors have said, is Apple’s Ad-Hoc program that is already operational. Erica Sadun of TUAW writes:

Developers and users need not use the App Store for testing. Ad Hoc distribution goes directly between the developer and the user. The user needs to supply their iPhone’s unique device identifier. The developer then sends a specially compiled version of their app along with a mobile provisioning file. Users drop these into iTunes and they’re good to sync.