Apple is preparing for the launch of the next version of its desktop operating system, Mac OS X 10.7 Lion, as well as a refreshed MacBook Air. We might see these new product in stores as early as Wednesday, AppleInsider reports, quoting sources familiar with the matter.
Lion is the latest update to Apple’s Mac OS X, which first released in 2001. It adds several features to the operating system that were inspired by the iPad, including the LaunchPad, which gives one-click access to applications, and a more gesture-based control system.
Peter Oppenheimer, Apple’s chief financial officer, told analysts last night that Lion would be released today. While the new MacBook Air, according to rumors, is expected to come with a 128 GB SSD, 4 GB of RAM, a backlit keyboard and Lion as the operating system.
The new operating system goes live now and will cost $29.99. OS X Lion will be available only through the Mac App Store and not available on disk. This is the first time that Apple has released an update to its operating system as a download-only.
Other features of Lion include a system-wide auto-save feature, which means that every app will perform regular background saves, eliminating the risk of lost work, and AirDrop, a simple means of transferring files between Macs.
Two of Apple’s key apps have been updated for Lion. Mail, Apple’s email client, now has improved search functions and an updated format for message threads that breaks the components of a conversation down into simple timeline.
Safari, Apple’s web browser, now features gesture-based navigation and a Reading List feature that stores web pages for reading later.
Mr Oppenheimer and Tim Cook, Apple’s chief operating officer, announced record profits during the call with analysts. Apple reached $28.57bn in revenue in the second quarter of this year, selling more than 20 million iPhones and 9 million iPads along the way.
“We sold every iPad we could make,” CFO Peter Oppenheimer told analysts and media listening to Apple’s July 19 earnings call, while suggesting that significant majorities of the Fortune 500 are studying how to best integrate the bestselling tablet into their employees’ workflow.
As with previous quarters, Apple faced a significant decline in iPod sales: 7.54 million units sold, a 20 percent dip from the year-ago quarter. The company traditionally ascribes this softness in media-player sales to cannibalization by the iPhone.
“We’re thrilled to deliver our best quarter ever, with revenue up 82 percent and profits up 125 percent,” Apple CEO Steve Jobs wrote in a July 19 statement accompanying the numbers. “Right now, we’re very focused and excited about bringing iOS 5 and iCloud to our users this fall.”
Even before Apple’s July 19 earnings report, analysts and pundits had turned their attention to the back end of 2011, when the company is expected to release a host of new software—including the Mac OS X “Lion” and iOS 5 operating systems—along with a new iPhone.
“The concern on [Wall Street] seems to be more about the outlook for the third quarter, ongoing supply constraints for the iPad and the timing of the iPhone introduction,” Tony Ursillo, an analyst with Loomis Sayles & Co., told Reuters July 15.
For many, questions (and rumors) are growing around the nature of that iPhone rollout. Popular tech blog Boy Genius Report, citing “new information from an incredibly solid source,” posted July 18 that Apple is planning to launch a no-contract iPhone priced at $350.
“It’s entirely possible that the low-cost iPhone will in fact be the iPhone 3GS,” that posting added. “We are told that Apple will continue to sell the current iPhone 4 as well, finally giving the company a full range of devices in the lower, mid, and high-end price segments.”
But Apple likes to keep its future plans shrouded in secrecy, and company executives on the July 19 earnings call were tight-lipped about the iPhone’s future.
Oppenheimer acknowledged that iOS 5 and iCloud will launch during the fall time frame, along with a “major product transition that we won’t talk about.” That could be the closest thing to an actual iPhone reference.
The iOS 5 update includes a wide variety of new features specifically designed to make Apple’s mobile devices more competitive against Google Android, Windows Phone and Research In Motion’s BlackBerry franchise.
Apple COO Tim Cook, also on the call, suggested that the iPhone’s strong quarterly sales were due to expansion in regions such as China, Latin America and the Middle East, which he defined as “markets that Apple has not traditionally been as strong in.” [Apple via The Telegraph (UK), eWeek and Apple Insider]