Before today, you needed a developer account to help test Apple’s upcoming software releases before they hit the general user population. You didn’t need to actually develop anything, but it would still cost you $99 per year to partake, and technically it was still sort of against the rules. Today, Apple introduced its OS X Beta Seed Program to make pre-release Mac operating system software available to all who want to help try it out.
You can sign up here, and all you need is an Apple ID. Once signed up, users can test out Mavericks pre-release builds before they’re launched for everyone else, and then submit feedback to Apple to help it iron out the kinks before general launch. It’s not for everybody, but early adopters who appreciate getting the chance at a sneak peak of tweaks before they come to market will appreciate the opportunity.
The program comes with its own special utility software for installation on your Mac, which makes pre-release versions of OS X visible in your Mac App Store’s Updates tab. You’ll also need to agree to Apple’s Beta Seed and Confidentiality Agreement to participate, which is probably quite similar to the one it makes developers sign before testing software, but there’s no fee to participate.
This move comes only a few weeks ahead of Apple’s WWDC developer conference, which kicks off June 2 this year. Apple is expected to reveal the next version of OS X at that event, and there’s a good chance it will also release a preview build of the operating system for pre-release testing at the same time, so it’ll be interesting to see if participants of the new Seed Program get access to that software ahead of time, too.