Apple Inc. is expected to release new MacBook Air next week that will be powered by Mac OS X Lion operating system, along with the iPhone 5, new iPod, iPad 3 later this year in an effort to update entire product lines.

Apple plans to release new MacBooks and Mac minis along with the even thinner MacBook Air, according 9to5 Mac. Apple will be releasing four new MacBook Air models. This includes two 11 inch models and two 13 inch models; both screen sizes will come in entry level and upgraded configurations, the report stated.

Rumors surround the keyboard, which could possibly revive the back-lit keyboard removed from the current MacBook Air generation. It was widely rumored that Mac OS X Lion, the soon-to-be latest operating system for Mac, was to be released today -- but it was not.

While the new Mac OS X Lion software is likely by next Friday, the updated MacBook Air will be launched later this month, which will make it the first computer equipped with the brand new software. The new MacBook Air will feature new Sandy Bridge processors along with the ultra-fast I/O connector technology ThunderBolt connector to accompany the new operating system.

But analysts are expecting Apple to release new MacBook Air next week along with Mac OS X Lion. According to OSXDaily, the new MacBook Air are already in the Apple's retail stores in sealed boxes, waiting for the Lion to be unleashed. AllThingsDigital reported that Thursday or Friday there'll be an announcement regarding the new MacBook Air.

The current generation of MacBook Airs are powered by Mac OS X 10.6 (Snow Leopard), which was released in June 2009, and the OS X Lion represents a quantum leap forward in terms of OS advancement.

Checks indicate we should see new MacBook Airs over the coming weeks – likely with the launch of OS X Lion which is due to ship in July. While product refreshes are generally a standard practice (faster, better, same cost), we believe the new MacBook Airs could eventually replace the traditional white MacBook that remains in the line currently, said Ben Reitzes, an analyst at Barclays Capital.

Reitzes said Apple’s last MacBook Air refresh was in October 2010 where the company went to an all new design. He noted that several retailers are indicating that stock is low or unavailable for the current MacBook Airs -- supporting the near-term launch timing.

Reitzes noted that MacBook Airs do not use HDD’s and he expects many PC players to attempt to copy Apple’s form factor by 2012. He believes that MacBook Air sales will accelerate significantly into the holidays and become much more prevalent as a percentage of Apple’s sales with each upgrade.

The OS X Lion, which will only be available through the Internet and will come in downloadable version retailing for $29.99, includes a number of features that will make Apple's ultraportable MacBook Air more appealing for mobile users.

For instance, the Lion will feature Restart in Safari mode (the user will have the option to access a sand-boxed version of the Safari browser directly from the lock screen, without having the need to log in), Resume (like iPhone users, Mac users will now be able to instantly resume an application where he/she had quit), Auto Save and Versions (Lion will not only automatically be able to save frequently what you’re working on but also it will save all versions of the file you’re working on) and AirDrop (a sort of Wi-Fi based peer-to-peer file moving utility that offers fully encrypted transfer with confirm to send and receive files function).

But most importantly, it will offer automated syncing of important data and documents with iCloud, Apple's ambitious cloud-based music, video, photo and data automatic backup and push out service.

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