Apple Has Been Working on OS X 10.7 for At Least a Month

Snow Leopard has barely gotten its paws wet, and now news comes that Apple (s aapl) is already working on its replacement. It’s not really surprising, since Apple is basically always either working on the next iteration of its products or releasing them, but still, it does whet the appetite for the next version of OS X.

The suggestion of the new operating system appeared in an entry posted early this morning in a change database for “launchd,” an open source framework that controls the booting of OS X and administers running processes. The new entry includes an error message with the string “11A47” in it, which is a reference to what version of Mac OS X is being used.

Previous versions of OS X have all followed the same numbering scheme. The number at the start of the string references which version of OS X is being used, with the letter indicated the minor release number and finally another number at the end indicating the development progress of said minor release. So, for example, Snow Leopard at release was represented by the string 10A432, and Leopard was 9A571. 11A47, then, would seem to indicate that an early build of 10.7 was being used.

According to MacRumors, the “47” part of that number would suggest that Apple has already been working on the new version of OS X for at least a couple of months now. It’s still very early days, though, and probably even a long way off from a release to the developer community. We saw a two-year span between 10.4 and 10.5, but only a one year gap between the release of 10.5 and 10.6, because 10.6 represented mainly performance upgrades and refinements. Chances are, 10.7 is at least another year and a half off.

No news yet on what to expect in 10.7, although there is reason to believe that the upcoming iteration of OS X will bring more major changes than the last update. Traditionally, Apple introduces far more GUI and basic functionality changes in major point releases, but Snow Leopard was a special exception to that rule, a fact reflected in the price. It’s possible that Apple will release OS 11 at some point, but as of right now, it seems likely that it will continue with the current numbering scheme.

Anything in particular you’d like to see in 10.7? Maybe something you were disappointed wasn’t there in OS X 10.6? Personally, I still think Finder could use some further fine-tuning, but otherwise I’m at a loss at the moment.