On the first day of July, Apple released a Gold Master build of Mac OS X 10.7 Lion to developers, suggesting that the official release of the new operating system in the near future.

 Gold Master is the reference model before the final version of hardware and software hits the store. Historically, Apple moved from a Gold Master to a public release within two weeks. 

However, this time, Lion marks the first operating system Apple releases as a digital download on the Mac App Store, which makes it highly possible for Apple to shorten its typical waiting time.

The appearance of the Gold Master, reported by several Apple-specific blogs, including 9to5Mac, and confirmed by Computerworld, sparked renewed speculation that the operating system will be released within days.

Within days is never enough to satisfy the public - several tech blogs and sites have circulated rumors of the exact date of the Lion release.

According to sources of 9to5Mac, the public release of the new OS will be July 14th, while MacTrast cites a source reportedly within Apple pointing to July 6th release. July 6th falls right after the Independence Day holiday weekend, so Apple will have enough time to buckle up and fortify their servers, according to the blog.

The OS X Lion represents a quantum leap forward in terms of OS advancement, from the current version of OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard).

While product refreshes are generally a standard practice (faster, better, same cost), we believe the MacBook Airs could eventually replace the traditional white MacBook that remains in the line currently, said Ben Reitzes, an analyst at Barclays Capital.

Besides supporting Apple's new iCloud services, the Mac OS X Lion sports more than 250 new features and 3,000 new developer APIs.

The download will be $29.99 to upgrade from Mac OS X 10.6 to 10.7, at around 4GB in size. According to Apple, buyers are welcome to download the upgrade in any of its retail stores.

Before the upgrade, make sure you have already installed all of the Apple-specific updates released over the past month. Version 10.6.8 of the operating system contains tweaks that enable the digital download and upgrade process, a must-have in order for the upgrade to function correctly, said PCMag.

Lion can also be installed only on Intel Core 2 Duo, Core i3, i5, i7, or Xeon processors, according to Apple.

Nearly 400,000 units of the new 11.6-inch and 13.3-inch MacBook Air, equipped with powerful graphic chips, Thunderbolt data port and Intel's ultra-low voltage Sandy Bridge processors, were reportedly ready for production since June. However, Apple wanted to wait for the OS X Lion to be built in the new notebooks.

Very soon, we can encounter a new batch of MacBook Air proudly equipped with OS X Lion, adding to the heated buzz around Apple's new products and updates.

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