"Apple and its partners have been privately dropping hints to developers that its upcoming release of its Mac OS X operating system, dubbed Snow Leopard, will ship earlier than expected," the report says.
It's unclear if the newspaper is basing its claims solely on a presentation slide used by Apple's Unix technology director during a recent system administrators conference, or whether it has other reason to believe an early release is in order.
The slide shown last month by Jordan Hubbard provided a historical rundown of major Mac OS X releases alongside their release date and how long it took the engineers to bring the software to market. It listed Snow Leopard for a release during the first quarter of 2009 (Jan-Mar) following a development cycle of "14+ months."
While announcing Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard at its developers conference last June, Apple stated that the software was "scheduled to ship in about a year," which would have put its release somewhere in the second or third quarter of the year, rather than the first.
In its report, the Guardian suggests that Schiller will confirm speculation of an early release during his keynote address at January's Macworld Expo while touting two of the software's core features: Grand Central and OpenCL.
The report also cites Rob Enderle, principal analyst at Enderle Group, as saying Microsoft has given Apple good reason to push for an earlier than expected release of Snow Leopard. The Redmon-based rival is also working on its next-gen system software, dubbed Windows 7, which is similarly scheduled to drop mid-year.
"There is a rush to get the new platforms to market. The estimate for Microsoft's Windows 7 is sometime in June," he said. "Apple would like to beat that. Having something with which Apple can pound on Microsoft until 7 shows up could do good things for their volume."
A slide from Jordan Hubbard's presentation at the LISA conference last month.
The analyst goes on to say that although Apple is expected to show off Snow Leopard at Macworld, it's unlikely that consumers are going to be able to obtain a copy until two or three months later.
Indeed, the most recent betas of the software issued privately to developers this month reveal that some of Snow Leopard's core features are still evolving.