New MacBook Air with OS X Lion roars in the distance, but many questions remain

A MacBook Air equipped with OS X Lion is definitely on the way. When the Air gets here, however, is anyone's guess.

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    The MacBook Air should get a refresh this week, according to several tech sites. Here, the 2010 edition of the MacBook Air.
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Apple has long promised that OS X Lion, the latest in the long line of OS X operating system overhauls, will arrive in July. Now comes word that a new line of Lion-powered MacBook Air laptops is set to follow close behind. According to John Paczkowski of All Things D, the third-generation Airs will hit shelves sometime late next week, and come equipped with a range of niceties, including the new high-speed Thunderbolt port.

At the same time, Paczkowski writes, Apple will "winnow down" its configuration options to 128GB and 256GB of flash storage. Over at 9 to 5 Mac, Mark Gurman says consumers should expect four models altogether – two 11-inch MacBook Airs, and two versions with 13-inch screens. Each one of the laptops should ship with Sandy Bridge chips, giving the new Air models a performance boost over the others.

Waiting for a cosmetic overhaul? Don't hold your breath. (What? You wanted it to get even skinnier?) No "noticeable exterior changes" are in the works, Gurman says.

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So what's great about Lion, anyway? Quite a lot, actually, including FaceTime functionality, full-screen apps, AirDrop – which will let users wireless transfer files over Wi-Fi, from one Lion-enabled computer to another – and best of all, improved Multi-Touch performance. If you've got an iPhone, you probably have a pretty good idea of how Multi-Touch works: move your fingers across the interface in different ways; watch the machine respond.

But Lion, Apple says, includes "more fluid and realistic gesture responses, including rubber-band scrolling, page and image zoom, and full-screen swiping." There's an interesting little run-down over on the Apple site, and it's well worth watching – especially if you have not yet mastered the "two-finger scroll." That should go nicely with the new MacBook Air – whenever it gets here.

Not a Mac guy? No worries. Windows 8 is looking pretty slick, too.

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