Well TOR officially announced it's registration for the beta.
Now the interesting thing is that the site crashed alot yesterday after the announcement, so that is probably some indicator of how many people want to play the game, or at least how many people spammed the site then. It's up now and you can register for the access, but there is no guarantee of being selected.
I'm not a game developer (one of the first things I admit), but it does seem that this is an early announcement considering alot of things about the game haven't been announced yet. ATM they are still missing 3 professions (the site shows 4, but can't imagine not having jedi) and for a game so focused on the interdependence of player stories, that would seem to be a big thing. I do however imagine that this is probably more of a case where you are testing bugs, specials and the like. I also think they are planning on getting the applicants now, but the actual program may not start for a while.
I got in a beta for an MMO years ago and the wierdest part for me was all the dialogue was still in Korean. Which made testing it, well you can imagine.
I tried to sign up for the TOR Beta, which they can also kick you from whenever, and there is no guarantee they will take you into subsequent phases of the Beta testing, but the site just kept sending me back one page when I filled out the information.