A final question I have about all of this is why we are getting this now. It seems there is a lot of rumbling about Apple issuing a re-designed OS X this year to more closely parallel the new iOS look. If that is the case, I suspect they’ll need more testers than ever and WWDC is just a few months away.
Meanwhile, Scotty Loveless questions the potential negative impact of the program:
I can’t figure out the target audience Apple wants to include with this new program. Most Apple fanatics I know gladly pay the $99 for a developer account for the betas alone, even if they aren’t developing any software. I am fearful that removing the paywall from the beta builds is the wrong move, opening up the betas to people who have no business using them.
It’s worth mentioning that beta builds of OS X have been made available for more casual users on torrent sites and Usenet for as long as I can remember. Even the more locked-down beta builds of iOS have been made more-or-less public by unscrupulous developers reselling UDID slots for five bucks a pop.
As of right now, the 10.9.3 build in this program is the same one as the developer seeds. It remains to be seen whether this paralleling will persist. While Apple will likely keep the builds broadly similar, there’s the possibility that the betas issued to those in the program will be slightly different. They could be one step behind, feature-wise, but one step ahead, stability-wise, as the developer seeds. It’s possible, but unlikely. However, this program gives Apple the ability to better-control how beta seeds are distributed.
As Loveless points out, I’m sure this will cause problems at Genius Bars across the land. But, as Apple notes in bullet point nine of their Appleseed terms:
During your participation in the Seeding Program or in a particular seed, Apple is not obligated to provide you with any maintenance, technical or other support for the Pre-Release Software. If, at Apple’s option, such support is provided, it will be provided in addition to your normal warranty coverage for your computer.
In short: don’t be an idiot, have a backup, and assume that you won’t have warranty coverage for software-related matters.