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Monday, July 18, 2011, 07:50 am PT (10:50 am ET)

Apple set to release Lion, new MacBook Airs as soon as Wednesday

Apple as early as Wednesday will launch two highly anticipated products: Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and new Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Airs, AppleInsider has learned.

According to people with proven track records who would be in a position to know, the new product launches are set to occur later this week. Specifically, one person said the products would be released on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.

The latest details align with what AppleInsider was told earlier this month, when it reported that new MacBook Air models with backlit keyboards and Thunderbolt ports would launch the week of July 21.

Those details were reaffirmed late last week in a separate report that corroborated other details, including the fact that Apple is expected to do away with the entry-level 64GB solid-state flash hard drive option. Instead, the new MacBook Airs are expected to have a minimum of 128GB in capacity.

The new notebooks, according to Concord Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo, are also expected to come with 4GB of RAM as the standard. That extra memory will allow the systems to better run Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, Apple's next-generation operating system, also said to become available this week.

Apple has been holding off on the introduction of new Mac hardware until it finally releases Lion. Apple has not offered a specific launch date for the operating system, only promising that it will become available on the Mac App Store for $29.99 at some point in July.

A few weeks ago, Apple began undertaking preparatory measures to unveil Lion. While it was initially believed that the operating system could have gone on sale as soon as last week, there have been rumors of last-minute holdups associated with the logistics and infrastructure related to Apple's switch to a digital distribution method through the Mac App Store.

Lion Mac App Store



The Golden Master of Lion was seeded to developers on July 1. The term "Golden Master" means that the software is viewed as a final build that will be identical to the software released to the general public.

While Lion and the new MacBook Air models are said to be set to launch this week, there has been no specific indication given regarding any other hardware. However, Apple provided its own evidence of a forthcoming refresh to its LED Cinema Display last week, when it posted images on its site showing a Thunderbolt-equipped display with the new part number "MC914."

Supply of Apple's white MacBook has also been severely constrained since late June, suggesting a change to the product could be forthcoming. However, AppleInsider has received no indication of an imminent hardware refresh.

That would leave just the Mac mini and Mac Pro as the only Mac hardware not updated in 2011. In June, CNet reported that Apple planned to update both the Mac Pro and Mac mini either at the end of July or the first week of August. The Mac mini was last refreshed in June 2010, while the Mac Pro was last updated a month later, in July.