June 11, 2012, 10:05 AM — Although speculation that Apple would wrap up its new Mountain Lion Mac operating system early has flopped, later today the company will likely narrow the launch date to a specific month this summer.
In 2009 and again in 2011, Apple used its annual Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) keynote presentation to announce the upcoming month of availability for its OS X Snow Leopard and Lion operating systems.
If the company follows its own protocol, someone from the executive circle -- CEO Tim Cook is expected to play a part in the keynote, which starts at 10 a.m. PT today -- will give customers a month-long window for the release of OS X 10.8, aka Mountain Lion.
In February, Apple surprised most experts by seeding developers with the first preview of Mountain Lion. At the time it said it would ship the upgrade "late summer 2012."
Four weeks ago, a report by the popular AppleInsider blog, as well as clues in the release cadence of the Mountain Lion developer previews, hinted at an earlier delivery, perhaps as soon as June 25.
That speculation most likely will be confirmed as off-base later today.
Although as of May 9 Mountain Lion's tempo was several weeks ahead of the schedule set the year before with Lion, the lack of a follow-up to the April 18 release of the third OS X 10.8 preview suggests that the new operating system won't appear until July at the earliest.
In 2011, Apple used WWDC to debut the fourth developer preview of Lion. Following that, it issued a "gold master," the tag Apple applies to completed software, on July 2 and then added OS X 10.7 to the Mac App Store on July 20.
But while Mac owners probably won't hear a specific Mountain Lion launch date today, they will almost certainly learn what they'll pay for the upgrade.
At 2009's and 2011's WWDCs, Apple used the conference keynote and same-day press releases to unveil the prices of Snow Leopard and Lion, respectively.
Analysts expect Apple to price Mountain Lion in the same $29-30 ballpark as the two previous iterations of OS X.
Also probably on today's agenda, or if not during the WWDC keynote, then later today, is an announcement of what Apple has called the "Up-To-Date" program for Mountain Lion.