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mavericks_x-9e0a3577ef5cc95c581f680824ca1947Apple has decided to offer interested users the chance to try out beta versions of OS X through a new seed program. While the company has offered Mac developers a chance to download pre-release versions of the OS for years, the new initiative allows anyone with an Apple ID to get their hands on the cutting edge OS update.

It’s similar to Microsoft’s process of offering previews of its major operating system updates to the public before their ultimate release, and an interesting move from a company like Apple, which usually keeps software updates closer to its vest.

People who sign up for the program will be given a special Beta Access Utility, which will allow them to install pre-release updates through the Mac App Store.

Like Apple’s developer beta programs, the OS X Beta Seed program is covered by a non-disclosure agreement. Participants in the program can’t talk about the “Pre-Release Software and any information concerning the Pre-Release Software (including its nature and existence, features, functionality, and screen shots),” as well as other information Apple sends out about the software. Users can talk about confidential information if it has already been made public, though.

mac_group-80566b6f03150c5d7621f41d3c4f983fOf course, it’s hard to say just how confidential that information will stay, now that anyone with an Apple ID can join the party. If Apple was to start testing major new features, I doubt that they’d push them out to Beta Seed program participants, for precisely that reason. It’s technically possible for the company to cut off someone they think is leaking secrets, but it seems like it would be hard for them to find a single responsible party.

All of this comes after Apple announced last year that it will offer all of its future OS updates to users for free, in stark contrast to Microsoft’s policy of charging for Windows upgrades.

As with any type of beta software program, there are sure to be bugs in the pre-release code that Apple ships out. That means people who rely on one Mac for their whole life are probably going to be better served by staying away from the code until Apple pushes it out as part of an official software update.

Those adventurous people interested in taking part can sign up for the program here.

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