Apple has made a subtle late change to the branding for Mac OS X 10.7 “Lion”.
If you look at Apple Support Documents, and the Apple product pages, they refer to the product as “OS X Lion“. Not “Mac OS X Lion” or “Mac OS 10.7”, simply “OS X Lion”.
Note that this title lacks two key things; Mac and 10.7. More specifically, if you look at an Apple Support Page’s affected products listing, it will appear like this:
Mac OS X 10.0, Mac OS X 10.3, Mac OS X 10.2, Mac OS X 10.1, Mac OS X 10.4, Mac OS X 10.5, Mac OS X 10.6, OS X Lion
Why the change? It’s not quite clear. Apple still refers to the product as Mac OS X under the About This Mac feature in 10.7.2, so there is a bit of mixed branding.
I do suspect though that this late change in branding implies that Apple may be prepared to do what many have rumored; blend iOS and Mac OS in some way down the line. It may or may not happen with Lion itself, but there has been considerable talk of ARM-based devices that resemble netbook-style MacBooks, instead featuring multi-touch displays and an ARM CPU.
In light of Windows 8 running on ARM, and notebook makers eager to combine ARM and Windows to increase profit margins, and deliver lower-cost computers (to combat tablets primarily), Apple may see the need to quickly respond to the rise of Windows ARM. Having a product that is “Lion” but also not necessarily the power, prowess, and capacity of a “Mac”, could allow Apple to retain customers that would otherwise defect to the lower-cost Windows ARM offerings.
Such a change also allows Apple to mix branding while creating a hierarchy of devices. With iOS devices focusing on portability, and Mac being the Cadillac brand of premium personal computers, Apple could create a middle-ground offering that runs on ARM, runs Lion, but requires recompiled software and functions as a middle-ground between the two products.
It could be one of the best moves Apple makes. Honestly, how many iOS device owners would buy a $400 Apple netbook? How many $2,500 MacBook Pro owners would buy one?
Apple has said netbooks may not be in their DNA. They never said they wouldn’t compete in that price-point or arena. This is a small change that could mean big things for where Apple takes Lion, especially if that means taking it to ARM… which they now happens to be a strong point for the dual-core Cortex manufacturer.