Toby Vincent of SmudgeApps wrote in to let us know that along with general App Store distribution and the 100-device Ad Hoc method universities and beta testers have been using, Apple has just opened the door to a new system:

Apple has finally started allowing us to issue free promotional copies of their iPhone applications. Devs can issue 50 promotional codes for their application. The codes allow the recipient to download a full copy of the application for free. Codes can only be presently used in the U.S. iTunes Stores by using the "Redeem" link in the App Store.

This would allow developers to, among other things, get their apps more easily into the hands of reviewers, or give them away as part of a promotional/marketing initiative.

Vincent was kind enough to send along a promo code for their flagship App, Jam! Unfortunately, as a -- I guess undeserving? -- Canadian, I was barred from downloading it. Ah well, my loss will be the gain of one of our US based writers for now...

So, while this still keeps apps for the most part still locked into the App Store, does it give developers a little more wiggle room in their iTunes straight jackets? What else does Apple need to do to really help expose the now 10,000 strong catalog to end users?