This Washington Post article, suggesting that a beta arrangement for App Store developers is right around the corner, just hit the Digg front page. TUAW wants to clarify a few points raised in that article:
The so-called "Beta Program" refers to ad-hoc distribution. This was announced at the SDK keynote and is not a secret. It's a method to distribute apps outside of App Store channels.
The "Beta Program" will not be released in the "next few days." Ad-hoc distribution is already available and working. Developers can create ad-hoc provisions through the iPhone Developer Program site today.
Developers and users need not use the App Store for testing. Ad Hoc distribution goes directly between the developer and the user. The user needs to supply their iPhone's unique device identifier. The developer then sends a specially compiled version of their app along with a mobile provisioning file. Users drop these into iTunes and they're good to sync.
There are several ways to recover UDIDs from iPhones or iPod touch handhelds. In iTunes, open the device Summary tab, tap Serial Number (it changes to "Identifier"), and press Command-C (Mac) or Control-C (Windows). You can then paste the UDID into an email. From the device, you can download Ad Hoc Helper, tap the icon and then address the pre-filled email to a developer.
Developers can take advantage of these techniques for ad-hoc delivery now to accomodate beta testers (and reviewers!), without any beta program established through the iTunes store.