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The Takeaway: Could Apple's El Capitan arrive sooner than expected?

The Takeaway: Could Apple's El Capitan arrive sooner than expected?

The faster pace of developer releases of Apple's next version of OS X indicates that the upgrade could launch earlier than expected.

The faster pace of developer releases of Apple's next version of OS X -- El Capitan -- indicates that the desktop/laptop operating system upgrade could launch earlier than expected.

Although Apple has been vague about when El Capitan will arrive, the cadence of the first six developer preview builds has already surpassed the timeline of 2014's Yosemite.

Yosemite debuted on June 2, 2014 at Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC), then ran through seven more builds before Apple on Sept. 30 issued the first of several "gold masters." Yosemite finally arrived for the general public last Oct. 16.

Here's why speculation is mounting that El Capitan could arrive earlier than that this year:

  • El Capitan, which Apple unveiled June 15 at this year's WWDC, started off nearly two weeks later than Yosemite. But by the time a fourth build was available on July 21, it had caught up with Yosemite's release pace.
  • Apple pushed out build 6 of El Capitan on Monday; that's fully two weeks ahead of when Yosemite's sixth build arrived last year.
  • The time between releases is shrinking. El Capitan preview 6 arrived just a week after No. 5, which showed up less than a week after No. 4.

The faster cadence means that if Apple sticks with the same general timeline as last year, it could have a gold master ready by the end of this month. That would roughly match the launch timetable of OS X Snow Leopard, aka 10.6, which shipped on Aug. 28, 2009. Snow Leopard was billed as a polished version of its predecessor, Leopard, just as El Capitan is touted as a maintenance upgrade for Yosemite.

"We wanted to build on the strengths of Yosemite," Craig Federighi, who leads OS X and iOS development at Apple, said in June at WWDC.  "So the name came from within Yosemite."

Whenever it arrives, OS X El Capitan will be free, just like 2013's Mavericks and Yosemite.

With reports by Gregg Keizer at Computerworld.

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