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Apple’s iOS 5 might have stolen the show at the company’s WWDC event in San Francisco last week, but the next version of Mac OS X – Lion – also saw a new beta release. According to reports, the latest seed features a new ‘Reboot to Safari’ feature, akin to Google’s Chrome OS laptops.

OS-X-Lion

The above photo courtesy of MacRumors shows a Mac laptop that has been restarted in a Safari-only mode, effectively sand-boxing off the rest of the operating system and turning a Mac into a dumb internet-only system.

The new feature goes head-to-head with Google’s own Chrome OS – a new initiative from Google and in partnership with a select few hardware manufacturers. Google’s thinking is that with more and more of our lives being housed online, a lightweight web-only laptop is all most of us need.

Obviously the push toward Google’s Gmail and Docs also helps.

MacRumors believes Apple’s angle is more one of a security. Users would be able to give people access to a computer with a fully featured web browser like Safari with there being no chance of anyone accidentally stumbling across private data or files.

Apple’s motivations for offering such a browser-only mode differs from Google’s. Google is partnering with manufacturers in order to build Chrome OS only laptops that offer cheap browser-only machines. Apple’s not likely to be going that route with Mac OS X Lion but is instead offering a nice sandboxed mode so Lion can easily act as a secure and anonymous web kiosk.

While a separate ‘guest’ account could be utilized, a quick restart into Safari would be both easier and less of a storage hog for those running on already anaemic SSDs. No word yet on boot-times, with Google’s Chrome OS boasting an instant-on capability.

Apple’s Lion will be a Mac App Store-only release – the first time an operating system of this magnitude has only been available via digital distribution.

OS X Lion

Priced at just $29.99, this major overhaul and iOS-ification of the Mac OS will be available in July, according to Apple’s Phil Schiller during the company’s Worldwide Developer Conference keynote.

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