Dear Aunt TUAW,
I just got an email from the apple seed programme inviting me to test the next update for lion. There is some chatter on various forums but I still don't know if this is legit. Have you heard anything?
The email and content doesn't have the polish that I would expect from apple, hence the concern. However many say it's legit. Big ask to hand over my apple ID.
I would love to participate :(
Your loving nephew,
Apple Seed is a legitimate invitation-only Apple beta program, which is completely separate from their paid developer program. Apple offers Apple Seed for early compatibility testing and feature feedback.
It goes way back and was, if Auntie has done her Google right, originally called the Customer Quality Feedback program. They have seeded both hardware and software in the past.
As you'd expect, the program requires that you accept a strict confidentiality agreement. Most recently, Apple Seed was noticed when it gave non-developers early access to OS X 10.7 Lion this Summer.
When you're in doubt about possible phishing, it always helps to check the actual e-mail links. In Apple Mail, choose View > Message > Raw Source. (Other clients offer similar options but with different menu choices.)
Make sure the actual links (http://) lead to the same place that the text suggests. For example, this line says it will take you to appleseed.apple.com but it actually does not.
Always exercise caution when dealing with unsolicited offers but in this case, you may actually have been invited to the Apple Seed program.