The Early Access collection of apps had previously been restricted to 29 launch partners, later joined by more hand-picked companies. Now, anyone can fill out the form requesting inclusion, but that doesn't mean you'll necessarily be successful.
In essence, it's a win-win for businesses and users: offering beta testing to the public gives developers early feedback before apps launch and people get to test out earlier than normal.
Apps need to be running in open beta to be eligible for testers to download. Google says it's the ideal way to bridge the gap between getting friends and family feedback, and truly objective input from potential future users.
Since launching the pilot program at Google IO in June, Google says Early Access apps have been downloaded more than a million times.