Apple could release Snow Leopard, the Mac OS X upgrade, earlier than expected according to reports from several Apple watchers. Mac sites are reporting that the new software could be released as early as 28 August.

John Gruber, who writes the Daring Fireball blog, and has accurately pegged other Apple moves in the past, said that his sources have put the release of Mac OS X 10.6, aka Snow Leopard, as 28 August, just over two weeks away.

Another analyst, was willing to bet on an early launch. "Why not ship early if you can? It feels good and looks good [for Apple]," said Ezra Gottheil of Technology Business Research. "And, unlike the old days, you don't have to wait for the ink in the manuals to dry."

One prominent analyst, however, was dubious about an August release. "Early September would be early," countered Gene Munster, an analyst for Piper Jaffray who covers Apple.

In June, Apple announced it would ship Snow Leopard in September, and unveiled lower-than-usual prices of $29 (£18) for a single licence and $49(£30) for a five-licence "family pack."  Apple has not yet revealed Snow Leopard's on-sale date.

Earlier this week, several Apple-orientated websites reported that the company had completed development of Snow Leopard, and Apple engineers had signed off on the actual release build, dubbed "golden master" in Apple-speak. U.S.-based MacRumors, for example, said it had confirmed that Apple tagged build 10A432 as the likely release candidate, following a similar report by the French site Mac4Ever.

Analysts who have created projections for Snow Leopard sales say that the upgrade will boost Apple's software revenues, but because of the low prices - Apple has traditionally priced a single-licence upgrade at $129 - the impact will be minor.

"I am conservatively assuming three million copies to be sold at $29 in the September 2009 quarter," said Brian Marshall of Broadpoint AmTech, who pointed out that Apple sold two million copies of Mac OS X 10.5, aka Leopard, in the first weekend of sales in October 2007. "Now the installed base is much larger and the [average sales price] is down significantly," he added.

Andrew Murphy, another Piper Jaffray analyst, agreed that the Snow Leopard "bump" would be much less significant than Leopard's. "We are modelling for Apple's total software sales of $615 million in the September 2009 quarter, when Snow Leopard launches, compared to $628 million in the December 2007 quarter, when Leopard launched," he said.