July 14: The Day Lion Doesn’t Ship

The rumor mill has been working overtime cranking out reports that OS X 10.7, or Lion, will ship on Thursday July 14. I’m going out on a limb and saying that Apple’s next OS isn’t shipping tomorrow, and that we’ll have to wait until next week before Lion hits the Mac App Store.

With so many reports claiming Lion will be available tomorrow, coupled with the unexpected downtime at Apple’s online App Store and the seemingly last minute maintenance at iTunes Connection (Apple’s portal where developers manage the apps they offer through the App Store), it sure looks like the stars have aligned for a Thursday Lion launch. Since Apple will be distributing Lion only as a download through its App Store, some pre-launch prep seems totally reasonable.

Lion tomorrow? Yeah, right.The big problem I see with a Thursday launch, however, is that Apple told developers it’s time to start submitting Lion-compatible versions of their apps for App Store approval only a couple of days ago. Since all of those updates need to go through Apple’s approval process before showing up on the Mac App Store, it doesn’t seem likely all — or even a substantial number — will be ready and available come Thursday.

Plenty of Mac apps need updates for Lion compatibility, so releasing the OS knowing that third party apps may break doesn’t sound like a good move for Apple. The backlash from customers once they realize the software they rely on no longer runs, regardless of whether or not it’s Apple’s fault, is the kind of publicity the companies try to avoid with new product launches, and I’d like to think Apple is no different in that regard.

That said, Apple did a fantastic job of attracting an amazing amount of bad publicity with its recent Final Cut Pro X launch. The release saw customer complaints about the redesigned interface, missing features, and the immediate lack of availability of Final Cut Pro 7 — the version that many pro video editing studios rely on daily and need since there isn’t any project migration path from FCP7 to FCPX.

Apple also seemed fine with the bad publicity it earned with iMovie updates, killing MobileMe Web hosting, dropping removable batteries from laptops. Translation: Apple isn’t afraid of negative press and moves forward with little compromise.

Apple doesn’t, however, have an unlimited number of man hours to handle the processing of every Lion compatibility update that’s likely being submitted for App Store approval before tomorrow.

Rumors are also saying more Mac hardware updates are coming soon, and could happen along side the Lion launch. That makes sense because Apple could ship the new Macs with Lion pre-installed, getting the new OS in the hands of more customers quicker. With the company’s third fiscal quarter earnings report is scheduled for next Tuesday, July 19, hardware upgrades would fit nicely as a post-earnings report announcement, possibly next Wednesday or Thursday.

Assuming Apple does release new Macs with Lion pre-installed post-earnings report, the timing would also fit nicely for a general Lion release and would also give the company more time to get those Lion-compatible app updates processed.

Of course, my public proclamation that Lion won’t be released tomorrow is probably the surest sign that it actually will considering there’s a high likelihood that Apple will push up the date just to spite me. If so, well, you’re welcome.