OS X Lion Coming Tomorrow (Or, You Know, Someday)

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Let’s be honest: no one has much of a clue when Apple’s planning to release OS X 10.7 Lion, Cupertino’s latest mammoth overhaul of the company’s Mac operating system. Sure, we know it’ll be sometime this month, which is what Apple’s been saying for weeks—unless the company changes its mind, which, let’s not get ahead of ourselves, it certainly could. I mean, hello, iWork 11 anyone?

But okay, we’ll entertain the rumor du jour, which goes something like “Apple’s new cat’s just been spotted physically prowling the company’s retail stores.” The gossip mill claims Apple retail stores have laid hands on physical copies (or rather, hard drives containing said copies) of the gold master version of OS X 10.7 Lion. That’d be the just-before-printing finale version Apple supposedly green lit back on July 1st, the so-called “11A511″ build. Apple reportedly handed that off to developers a few weeks ago, signaling an imminent consumer release.

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Last week we heard Apple was prepping its retail stores for a Thursday July 14th launch, which then became a Friday July 15th launch, eventually morphing back into a giant ball of “who the heck knows” and another weekend of shamed “so much for ‘some sources say’” silence.

Today’s variation on the latter theme belongs to AppleInsider, who source their gold-master-in-stores claim to “people with proven track records who would be in a position to know.” No, I swear I haven’t confused AppleInsider with The Onion.

Don’t forget: OS X Lion will be a digital-only release (it’s in fact the only verifiable point in this story). That means you’ll either have to download it, or buy a new computer running it. It’s not available on disc, though—back to rumor country—there’s been speculation Apple may at some point begin selling it on USB sticks.

What else. There’s much ado about a simultaneous Apple hardware launch, specifically new MacBook Airs, white Macbooks and Mac Minis with faster Intel “Sandy Bridge” processors, higher de facto system memory and Thunderbolt ports. Expect the new MacBook Airs to ship, minimally, with much larger 128GB solid state drives (if you place stock in claims made by a security analyst with “industry checks”). There may even be a new Thunderbolt-equipped LED Cinema Display in the mix. All of the above, or none of the above, could be available as early as tomorrow.

And now that I’ve properly skewered the rumor-pile, I fully expect OS X Lion to launch without further delay tomorrow morning, because, as “one person” told AppleInsider, it’s all happening at 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time. Place your bets.

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Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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