Laptop nation

The second Mac I ever bought was a laptop. Since that day in 1992, when I first opened the box of my PowerBook 160, I have always had a portable Mac.

Back then, laptops and desktops occupied entirely different worlds. The pricing was different, as was the performance. But over time, as laptop technology has advanced dramatically and prices have dropped, those differences have diminished. As a result, portable Macs have gone mainstream.

Over the past nine months, more than 60 percent of the Macs that Apple has sold have been MacBooks. Sure, some of that has to do with pent-up demand for the fast new Intel-based Mac laptops. But the end result is that there are more new Mac laptops out there than new desktops.

These days, when Macworld writes about laptops, we don’t approach the subject as if it’s of interest to a coterie of digital nomads. That’s not to say we don’t recognize that differences still exist. Being a laptop user still presents its own challenges, from connecting to wireless networks to preserving battery power and making sure the files on your hard drive stay safe, even if your system is lost or stolen. But those concerns are shared by an ever-larger portion of Macworld readers.

That’s why we’ve devoted this month’s cover story, “Macs on the Move” (page 46), to three different issues of interest to anyone who uses a Mac laptop. First, we look at the new ModBook, a modified MacBook from Axiotron and Other World Computing that (finally) provides a Mac alternative to the Windows-based Tablet PC. The ModBook is definitely not for everyone—but it is extremely cool. We also look at Apple’s new AirPort Extreme wireless networking hardware, which uses the speedy new 802.11n specification. And, finally, we have a collection of tips and advice for those of us who use a laptop, instead of a desktop, as our primary Mac.

Macworld’s new look

If you pay close attention, you’ll notice that this issue of the magazine looks a little different.

Yes, we’ve redesigned Macworld . But if you didn’t notice at first, don’t feel bad: We’ve tried to be subtle about it. Our art director Rob Schultz has been with Macworld for more than two years now, and so he knows what worked—and what didn’t—in our previous design. Our goal was to maximize those strengths and minimize the weaknesses. Also, over the past couple of years, we’ve made a bunch of tweaks and additions here and there to the content of Macworld . The previous design was straining under those incremental changes, so we wanted to bring them all together as a coherent whole.

The result, I think, is a magazine that’s still recognizably Macworld, but that’s easier on the eye and easier to read.

In addition to the physical refinements, we’ve also made some structural changes to the magazine. Hot Stuff, our collection of cool new products and Web sites, has moved from the back page of the magazine to the end of the Mac Beat section.

In its place, you’ll find the return of an old Macworld tradition: the back-page columnist. The big difference is that our new Spotlight column won’t be written by a single voice. Rather, it’ll be a home for a wide variety of Mac writers. The first Spotlight columnist, John Gruber, made his name as the author of the Web site Daring Fireball. In future months, the back page will welcome other contributors, some of them brand-new to the pages of Macworld , some of them old friends.

We’ve also made some changes in our back-of-the-book how-to section. Month in and month out, Christopher Breen’s Mac 911 and Rob Griffiths’s Mac OS X Hints are among the most popular stories in the magazine. With this redesign, we broke out these two columns—formerly part of our Secrets section—into their own Help Desk section. To boost that section’s coverage, we’ve asked Mac troubleshooting expert Ted Landau to begin writing a monthly Bugs & Fixes column.

A magazine is a living, breathing thing. We may have updated our design this month, but the Macworld staff is constantly modifying what we do to better serve the hundreds of thousands of people who read the magazine each month. And we’re always listening to your feedback, whether it comes via our e-mail letters mailbox, in the Macworld.com forums, or through the monthly research we do with our large panel of readers. However you want to communicate with us, please keep letting us know what you think.

[ Got a comment? E-mail Jason directly or post a message in the Macworld forums. ]

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