Personal computers are changing in ways that go beyond even the more recent innovations, such as the launch of Windows 7: Several of today's laptops are missing a familiar component, computers can be controlled in various new ways, and portable PCs are slimming down.

Even with all the attention lavished on Apple's iPhone and Inc.'s Kindle this year, a PC or laptop still is likely to be the center of a student's digital universe. Here's a look at what this year's computer trends mean for the personal computing--and especially for education.

• Drives are becoming a thing of the past.

Computers have...

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