OS X Lion to launch next week, say reports

But Apple remains mum on release date

Apple will release Lion some time next week, perhaps Thursday, July 14, according to reports.

Citing unnamed sources, 9to5Mac and AppleInsider said that Apple retail stores would be prepped next week, most likely for the launch of Mac OS X 10.7, aka Lion, and that memory upgrades were to be installed on in-store display Macs to run the new operating system.

Although 9to5Mac had earlier pegged Lion's debut as July 14, other Apple-centric websites had claimed they had information that Apple would launch the upgrade this week, on Wednesday, July 6.

That didn't happen.

Apple has said only that it will release Lion this month, but it has not yet specified a date.

Last week, Apple handed off a "gold master," a term that describes a potential final build, to developers. It has not updated the gold master (GM) build since then.

Because developers are still filing bug reports on issues they have found with the GM, Apple may issue a follow-up GM before releasing the OS to the public. During the lead-up to the August 2009 launch of Snow Leopard, for example, Apple delivered more than one GM build to developers.

If Apple hews to the timetable for Snow Leopard, it will announce Lion's availability date several days before the upgrade reaches the Mac App Store, the sole distribution channel for Mac OS X 10.7.

Analysts also believe that the Apple will refresh the MacBook Air line either alongside the Lion launch or shortly after.

That line of lightweight notebooks was last tweaked in October 2010, when Apple dropped prices, debuted a smaller 11-in. model and replaced traditional hard drives with flash memory-based drives.

According to reports, the refreshed MacBook Air notebooks will use flash memory chips that access data one-and-a-half times faster than the current models' SSD (solid-state drive).

While waiting for Lion, Mac owners can use the time to prepare their computers for the upcoming upgrade.

Gregg Keizer covers Microsoft, security issues, Apple, Web browsers and general technology breaking news for Computerworld. Follow Gregg on Twitter at @gkeizer, or subscribe to Gregg's RSS feed . His e-mail address is gkeizer@ix.netcom.com.

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