Laptop computing has come a long way since I bought my first portable, a PowerBook Duo 230, more than a decade ago. Back then, laptops were almost a novelty. But nowadays, mobile computing is huge . In fact, 60 percent of Apple’s computer sales during the first fiscal quarter of 2007 were laptops, with the industry as a whole seeing similar trends. Why? It’s not difficult to figure out if you take a step back and look at the recent advances we've seen in portable computing:
- Power: You no longer have to accept a pokey, second-rate processor to compute on-the-go. Today’s laptops use the same processors as today’s desktop computers (or, at the very least, some variation of them), making a notebook a viable workhorse.
- Larger, brighter screens: Ten years ago, high-end laptops had 12-inch screens that were mediocre in quality compared to a contemporary low-end CRT. (And those laptop screens were expensive .) Today, 12-inch screens are found mainly in “subnotebook” portables, with bright, clear, and reasonably color-accurate 17-inch widescreen displays widely (no pun intended) available. We've even seen 19-inch displays in the wild, with 20-inch versions on the way.
- Wireless networking: When access to the Internet or a local network required a cable, portability didn’t mean as much. But nowadays, with every coffee shop and budget hotel offering wireless Internet access, a notebook is not only a feasible work machine, it’s also a more convenient one.
- Better battery life: My PowerBook Duo 230 was lucky to get half an hour of battery life; I often resorted to using a RAM disk to squeeze a few more minutes out of it. Today’s MacBooks can last for four hours or more of real-world use.
- Memory and storage: Every Mac laptop includes at least 512MB of RAM, with the top models sporting 2GB. The smallest hard drive available on Apple’s current notebooks is 60GB; the largest is 200GB. Those are jaw-dropping numbers when you consider where we came from. And both types of memory offer impressive performance compared to the components found in laptops just a couple years ago.
- Cost: Today’s $1,000 laptops blow away the $5,000 models of just a few years back. And the top-of-the-line models no longer sink you into years of debt. (Remember the nearly-$7,000 PowerBook 5300ce ?)
Given these trends, it was only a matter of time before laptops replaced desktops as the most popular type of computer. Of course, if you’ve been paying attention to the computing world at all, you know all this. So why am I talking about it here? Two reasons. First, now that Apple’s laptops can do most of the same things as desktop Macs, publications such as Macworld no longer need as much “split” coverage—for example, iLife works the same on a MacBook as it does on an iMac, and peripherals for a Mac Pro are largely similar to those for a MacBook Pro. By covering Mac technologies, software, and hardware, we’re capturing most of the market, so you don’t see as many laptop-specific features in the pages of Macworld these days.
At the same time, because laptops are so popular, products and technologies specifically designed for them and their users are as popular as ever before—likely even more so. In fact, there’s more of this stuff out there than we could ever fit in the paper pages.
In other words, there’s lots of “mobile Mac” stuff out there to cover—and we want to cover more of it. That’s where the Mobile Mac Weblog comes in. Our editors and contributors will be using this space to share our thoughts on —and hands-on experiences with—things specific to the mobile user: mobile technology (including other portable devices such as mobile phones, PDAs, and the like); portable-computing accessories; laptop bags; tips for getting the most out of your mobile life; and more. So stay tuned. And if you don’t want to miss an article, be sure to subscribe to the RSS feed for the Mobile Mac Weblog.