Apple may demo the next release of Mac OS X next week, or even release code to developers in preparation for an early-2009 launch, according to reports.
An account on Mac enthusiast site TUAW (The Unofficial Apple Weblog) said Apple may provide early copies of Mac OS X 10.6 at next week's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) in San Francisco.
Mac OS X 10.6 will run on Intel-based hardware only, said TUAW, and so will mark the ditching of support for the older PowerPC processor-equipped Macs. Apple announced it would shift to Intel processors three years ago, and unveiled the first systems in January 2006.
Technology site ars technica also weighed in Wednesday on Mac OS X 10.6: its sources pegged with OS with the code name "Snow Leopard".
Both TUAW and ars technica said that Mac OS X 10.6 could launch as early as January 2009 with a focus less on dramatic new features than on better stability and performance.
One analyst said that next week's WWDC would be the right time for Apple to talk up or release an early build of Mac OS 10.6. "It's always important to remember the venue Apple uses," said Michael Gartenberg , an analyst with JupiterResearch and a Computerworld columnist. Apple, he went on, typically saves the WWDC spotlight for developer-related news.
"They may mention a new Mac OS X next week," said Gartenberg, "but Apple's never been compelled to tell the entire story at one sitting."
That's exactly what it did in June 2005 when Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced that the company would transition to Intel processors. "They also said 'we're going to be working on Leopard,' and then showed a slide," Gartenberg said.
In fact, Apple delayed its WWDC event in 2006 until August so Apple chief executive Steve Jobs could unveil Leopard to the developers in attendance. The OS was not released to the public for another 14 months.
Leopard, which Apple originally said would release at the end of 2006 or early 2007, was delayed until October 2007, debuting an Apple-record 30 months after its predecessor, Mac OS X 10.4, or Tiger. That version, however, launched just 18 months after the previous OS, dubbed Panther.
Jobs will kick off WWDC next Monday with a keynote address, where most analysts expect he will spend the bulk of his time talking up a new 3G-capable iPhone and that platform's major software upgrade, iPhone 2.0.