Apple Computer last week announced its first-ever public beta of a version of the Mac OS, a $30 preview version of Mac OS X that's currently scheduled for a January 2001 release. The software is available for purchase in English, German, and French versions only from the Apple Store (including all of the international Apple Stores, after a brief lag from the Apple Canada Store). Because installing the software requires booting from CD, (and because it's huge) it's not available for download.
The company is also making the public beta of Mac OS X available pre-installed on certain configurations of Power Mac G4 and Power Mac G4 Cube. These machines also include Mac OS 9 for use with the Classic environment, needed to run software that isn't specifically designed for Mac OS X.
The Mac OS X Public Beta is designed to run on all Macintosh computers with at least 128 MB of RAM and PowerPC G3 or G4 processors, except the original PowerBook G3 and machines with processor upgrade cards. Before installation, we strongly recommend making a full backup, reading through the release notes, and installing Mac OS X on a second partition of your hard disk, rather than on the same partition as your existing Mac OS 9 installation. Apple has a Getting Started page with some initial resources, and Macworld has compiled a large quantity of information - including some Macworld Lab tests - on Mac OS X Public Beta.
You can direct comments and bug reports about the Mac OS X Public Beta to Apple's Mac OS X Feedback page, where Apple claims that they'll read all feedback but cannot respond. Interestingly, Apple explicitly states that all ideas will be considered under Apple's Unsolicited Idea Submission Policy, which basically states that Apple doesn't accept unsolicited ideas, and if you send your ideas anyway, they become property of Apple. Although this is a beta test, Apple suggests three support avenues: the built-in Mac Help, Apple's new Knowledge Base, and pay-per-incident telephone support from Apple. Of course, I'm sure Internet Web sites and forums (such as the themacintoshguy.com's Mac OS X Beta List) will also spring up with Mac OS X Public Beta support resources.