According to sources and online reports, Apple has recently distributed Mac OS X 10.4 Tiger build 8A425, which it has deemed a final candidate.
In regards to software development, and more specifically Tiger, a final candidate is a pre-release software build that is under consideration to become final, or gold master.
With massive software projects such as Tiger, Apple will sometimes seed several final candidate builds before one is declared gold master.
Once a final candidate build of Tiger is selected to become gold master, its code will be frozen and sent to manufacturers for duplication on optical media. The software is then packed for retail and shipped to distributors and retail outlets.
This entire process -- from gold master to retail -- could take as long as two weeks, but will likely take only a matter of days in the case of Tiger. Nevertheless, sources say that Apple is unlikely to begin distributing copies of Tiger until the third week in April, though it may take pre-orders.
So far there is no indication that Tiger build 8A425 will become gold master, but it's close. The build carries only two outstanding glitches, according to reports. These pertain to nVidia GeForce graphic cards and the compatibility of the Japanese character set in Carbon applications.
Furthermore, several tipsters note that the latest build of Tiger has shed its "Pre-release" indicators, which were previously visible throughout the system.
According to a previously published report on the ThinkSecret Web site, Apple plans to announce the completion of Tiger this Friday.