Apple goes the Microsoft route, offers open beta of OS X updates

Apple is now allowing any user of OS X to access the beta builds of the operating system, with a new program that is available to everyone and not restricted to developers. And unlike the developer program, access to the beta builds of OS X is free; the developer program will set you back $99.

If you're thinking early access to OS updates sounds familiar, you would be correct, as Microsoft has been doing this for years with its ‘Preview’ programs. But while it may appear that Apple copied Microsoft’s techniques for beta testing software, these two companies are, of course, not the only ones who participate in this open practice.

To sign up for the program, you can check out the link here and be prepared to tell Apple a few bits about yourself to complete the process.

When it comes to installing beta software, even if it is from official sources, it’s perhaps best to not do this on your main machine, as there remains a chance that the software may not be perfect. 

The reasoning for Apple to open up this process is quite simple: with more users testing updates, this provides a larger sample pool, improving the likelihood of finding issues before the final version of the software is pushed out to all users. It’s a quality control maneuver and it’s hard to fault any company that wants to improve its software.

For now, the program is only open to OS X users, while iOS access still requires a developer account. Apple may be testing the waters with OS X and if all goes well, it could open up the service to iOS users in the near future.

Sign Up: OS X beta program

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31 Comments

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Only thing I have against the way Apple updates it's OS is that there is no uninstall. They say put back a TimeMachine backup, but I'd still prefer an uninstaller...

Co-ords said,
Only thing I have against the way Apple updates it's OS is that there is no uninstall. They say put back a TimeMachine backup, but I'd still prefer an uninstaller...

I would disagree, you never know just how cleanly uninstallers actually uninstall. Given the ease of use of Time Machine it takes so very little effort to do a backup and then restore if necessary. Much cleaner that way.

I've heard this complaint before about Beta OSes, or just beta software in general. As a developer I have to ask why you would need to uninstall beta software (aside from testing uninstall)? The underlying question is this: why are you using Beta software in an environment that you simply cannot just nuke and re-install?

Beta software should not be used in production, or everyday use - or if it is, you do so at the risk of losing any data produced or stored on said software. It's a risk you've implicitly agreed to.

That literally makes no sense.

Whilst the most recent beta test will be a point release for Mavericks (Service pack in Windows terms) as soon as they announce the next major OS verison it is pretty much be a given it will be included in this program.

Although the major update/point release thing is getting silly now. OS X always had major releases as a 10.x release or whatever and now Microsoft are going the same way with 8.1 being a 'major' update and then same with 8.1 Update 1 and whatever.

Are you now testing updates or upgrades? It is all a bit nonsense now. But they are essentially the same program.

Romero said,
8.1 was a major release but not Update 1.

Update 1 was pretty major =). Maybe not as gui but in terms of their direction. But even as a gui, it added some nice features.

Doesn't matter how we characterize it, they don't treat it as a major update although it is the new servicing baseline now.

Hardly the Microsoft route... last I checked MS Previews/betas ran on almost every PC available, on PC's half a decade old. Apple.. Not so much, not so open to the public

Now let's see if Apple shows up Microsoft and releases builds more frequently. No surprise that MS's preview programs are very lacking in this area, no regular updates to fix bugs and allow testing of new features.

Steven P. said,
Chris, mate.. Apple does have a rapid release cycle afaik? New version every year? or something lol

Talking about beta builds, MS throws a build out there and lets it lie for months at a time before sending out a new preview.

Chris123NT said,
Now let's see if Apple shows up Microsoft and releases builds more frequently. No surprise that MS's preview programs are very lacking in this area, no regular updates to fix bugs and allow testing of new features.

The problem is that sometimes they think they have fixed a bug but that fix leads to other bugs and problems. They need to gauge what builds are ready for the general beta testing public.

Your position seems to be that you want to use a beta OS as your main OS.

Chris123NT said,
Now let's see if Apple shows up Microsoft and releases builds more frequently. No surprise that MS's preview programs are very lacking in this area, no regular updates to fix bugs and allow testing of new features.

It is the byproduct of when you've monetised an operating system and you're forever holding back improvements and deciding whether something should be released because it might act as a disincentive for the person to pay for the next upgrade. Honestly, I wish Microsoft would just buy out Dell, provide the operating system free of charge and do what needs to be done because God knows it would be a great day when we end up getting an end to end finely crafted product from Microsoft without all the OEM crapware etc.

.Neo said,
Your inability to spell "OS X" correctly.

And the fact that ZipZapRap trolls the news section but never goes into the forums also speaks volumes as well.

Mr Nom Nom's said,

And the fact that ZipZapRap trolls the news section but never goes into the forums also speaks volumes as well.

Oh there's a rule I have to go to the forums? Please point it out.

ZipZapRap said,
Oh there's a rule I have to go to the forums? Please point it out.

Never said it was a rule - next time why don't you try reading what is on the page rather than making things up. The point I was trying to make is that it is very dodgy behaviour.

Mr Nom Nom's said,

Never said it was a rule - next time why don't you try reading what is on the page rather than making things up. The point I was trying to make is that it is very dodgy behaviour.

haha dodgy now? haha right.
Well you enjoy your time on the forums. I'll enjoy my time here. I don't need to go to the forums, and it's hilarious you're implying that one should.

Was going to suggest adding it to the article, but the same for Windows Phone has only been available since the most recent "open" preview :p

Haresh Kainth said,
Thats a very good move from Apple.

mavericks came out with some big bugs and still has some nasty setbacks i don't think would have been missed if the beta tester group was larger

some scenarios you can't get with just paid devs testing it.