Later today, Apple will open the doors to one million users, allowing them to download the public beta of OS X 10.10 Yosemite. This is the first public beta program of OS X that Apple has run since the first release of Mac OS X. At that time, Mac OS X was cutting edge, and the public beta of Mac OS X was meant as much as a showcase as an actual beta, and it was not free: it cost $29.95. Surprising that Apple made users pay to give them feedback.
Today’s release – you can sign up here, if you really want to – is a sign of Apple’s new openness. In allowing one million users to download the public beta – as well as the hundreds of thousands of people with paid developer accounts – Apple is banking on getting feedback both on reliability and features.
But how much attention will Apple pay to user feedback? The company already has trouble fixing the many bugs that developers report. Will they make any interface changes based on user comments? I highly doubt it. What they will do, however, is silently collect information about crashes, and, perhaps, the way people use certain features.
But is it worth your while, as an average user – that is, not a developer or journalist – to download the public beta? Probably not. Sure, you’ll get a first look at the next iteration of OS X, but this comes at a cost. This is a beta; as such, you MUST NOT USE IT ON A PRODUCTION MAC. It is unstable, and unreliable, so if you do use it on your main Mac, you may lose data. To run it safely, you should install it on an external hard drive, or an old Mac, and not entrust any important data to it.
With this in mind, is it really worth the time it will take to download and install? You’ll be able to use plenty of apps: web browsers, email clients, Messages and Twitter apps. But you need to be very careful about doing any real work on a beta operating system. If you use your Mac professionally, you simply shouldn’t spend time with the public beta.
It’s neat to get a first glimpse at a new operating system. But most users don’t really need this, so think carefully whether you do. If you decide to install it, make sure to do it safely.