Mac industry watcher AppleInsider is predicting that Apple will launch Mac OS X 10.7 Lion and new Thunderbolt-equipped MacBook Airs, as early as Wednesday this week. Now a source quote by similar site Mac Rumors has confirmed that Apple Retail stores have begun receiving final copies of OS X Lion today (in the US at least).

Mac Rumors said the installations had come on hard drive and were meant for the Apple Retail demo computers on the store floor. As the site admits, this doesn't guarantee a specific launch date, but brings Apple one step closer to launch. 

AppleInsider, a normally reliable source, earlier quoted 'people with proven track records who would be in a position to know' as saying that the new product launches are set to occur later this week: "Specifically, one person said the products would be released on Wednesday at 8:30 a.m. EST" (4.30pm in the UK)

These latest revelations tie in with our news from last week. AppleInsider suggested Apple had been holding off on the introduction of new Mac hardware until it finally releases Lion.

Mac OX 10.7 Launchpad

The Golden Master of Lion was seeded to developers on July 1, identical to the software that will be released to the general public, so speculation (often wrong) has been rife as to the actual launch date.  Apple has not offered a specific launch date for the operating system, only promising that it will become available on the Mac App Store at some point in July

Apple ad for Lion