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Apple developing mini-disc adapter for slot-loading drives

post #1 of 71
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Apple iPod chief Tony Fadell has develop a collapsable hardware solution that would allow his company to reduce shipping and packaging costs by selling software on smaller discs which could then be used in slot-loading optical drives built for standard 12 cm CDs and DVDs, a new filing has revealed.

Dubbed "Compact Memory Disc Adapter and Methods of Use Thereof," the patent filing made in May of 2006 and published for the first time on Thursday explains that conventional rotating memory storage discs such as CDs and DVDs are currently produced in standard 12 cm and reduced diameter 8 cm configurations.

Software is traditionally shipped on the 12 cm discs, but many applications exist today that require less storage capacity than what is available on the those discs, the filing adds. However, slot-loading drives found in notebooks and car audio systems are only designed only to accept 12 cm discs.

"In such situations it would be advantageous to use a reduced diameter (lower storage capacity) disc," Fadell explained. "Such advantages include reduced shipping costs, reduced production costs, etc."

The iPod chief pointed out that one currently available solution to using reduced diameter discs in slot drives is that of a rigid adapter that when used in conjunction with the reduced diameter disc enables a disc player to accept and play the reduced diameter disc.

"However, this solution does nothing to reduce shipping costs since the rigid adapter (with its larger footprint) must be shipped with the reduced diameter disc and therefore a standard sized shipping container must be used to accommodate both the rigid adapter and reduced diameter disc," he wrote. "What is needes is a cost effective method and apparatus for shipping reduced diameter discs that assures the end user will be able to use the reduced diameter disc in a slot drive designed exclusively for a standard diameter disc."

Therefore, Fadell's invention calls for a "compactable memory disc adapter" that can be shipped in a compact form and expanded by the customer once extracted from the retail packaging. It could then be fitted around the edges of a 8cm mini-disc, effectively allowing for the reduced diameter disc to play in a slot interface designed exclusively for standard 12cm diameter discs.



Such an adapter can exist in more than one form, the iPod chief goes on to explain. One method includes two separated portions that are mated together via a locking mechanism to form the expanded adapter.

"For example, such a locking mechanism can include tabs that when mated with corresponding tab receivers form the expanded memory disc adapter," he explained. "Again it should be noted that such an embodiment could be implemented with any number of portions and corresponding locking mechanisms along the lines described above. It should be noted that when in a compacted configuration the portions are stacked one atop the other in such a way as to have a reduced footprint."

Another method for construction of the disc adapter could include portions that are coupled via foldable joints. Under this method, the portions are folded apart in an unfolding operation using the foldable joints.



"It is contemplated that the unfolding operation can be either a manual unfolding operation whereby the portions are unfolded by way of an externally applied force or an automatic unfolding operation whereby the portions are unfolded due to the release of unfolding energy stored in the joints," Fadell wrote. "In the automatic unfolding operation, the portions are (in the compacted configuration) held together in spite of the unfolding energy stored in the joints by way of a clip or other such device (not shown)."

In order to achieve the expanded configuration under the aforementioned method, the clip is released and the unfolding energy stored in the joints would then forces the portions apart, forming the expanded adapter. In order to return to the compacted state, the reverse process would be followed whereby an amount of energy commensurate with the unfolding energy previously stored in the foldable joints is applied.
post #2 of 71
A PATENT FILING?!?!?! I own one of these. Companies made them like 15 years ago.

Oh ... they're talking about a foldable/expandable one. I have to imagine these kinds of things would produce horrible vibration in today's much, much higher speed drives.

Why not just make foldable discs?
post #3 of 71
I own one as well.. from around 1988??

how about just using the same design of drive thats in the Wii it takes the smaller discs and is a slot loader.


Funny, when I read the headline I thought they were gonna put a minidisc(tm) drive in the machines!
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post #4 of 71
This story has nothing to do with mini-discs whatsoever.
post #5 of 71
The first one I had was Nine Inch Nail's Broken album. It had a minidisc along with the main CD.

Anyway, I don't think a folding ring is a smart move. It adds an extra part and that could be broken or lost and that is not often used. Why not just engineer the drive inject/eject motor to work with smaller discs?
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post #6 of 71
Nintendo already has such technology for the Wii, allowing GameCube disks to be used. Maybe Apple could license the same technology or get their driver supplier to license the technology?
post #7 of 71
\
The timing or need of this is odd.

Anybody else think that this coming out now is really odd?
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post #8 of 71
Apple actually used to ship machines with such drives. The slot-load iMac G3s were able to take the small discs if they were round. At some point they stopped using those, it seems.
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post #9 of 71
So I guess the new MacBook nano will have a mini cd drive then?
post #10 of 71
the first ibooks were also capable of loading the smaller discs...
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post #11 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by smokeonit View Post

the first ibooks were also capable of loading the smaller discs...

The main point of the patent and invention is that Fadell's adapter can be collapsed -- for shipping and packaging -- into a very small footprint. It's not just about the idea of the adapter, which as several of you noted, already exists. Does the one for the wii collapse?

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post #12 of 71
To be honest, I think Optical media is on the way out. People download software these days, direct to hard drive - think of iPods - they don't come with iTunes, you download it.

The only case where optical media is needed at the moment is installing OS's, and even then they can be installed from a partition. I imagine that future laptops will not have inbuilt optical drives, and instead will come bundled with USB optical drives (much like floppies were for a while). Until eventually everything will be done wirelessly.

Who knows, in the future when you buy Mac OS X 10.8 it might come on a wireless USB flash drive that cannot be written to, and you can just boot from it wirelessly!
post #13 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kasper View Post

The main point of the patent and invention is that Fadell's adapter can be collapsed -- for shipping and packaging -- into a very small footprint. It's not just about the idea of the adapter, which as several of you noted, already exists. Does the one for the wii collapse?

Best,

K

The Wii doesn't need an adapter - it has a slot loading drive that accepts normal and mini optical disks (gamecube disks).

As you insert the disks, it gets 'sucked' towards the centre, so every disk ends up in the right location.
post #14 of 71
Looks like we are stuck with the 12cm disc for a little while longer. I imagine CD/DVD drives will disappear in the next 5 years when bandwidth and wifi are fast enough to eliminate the need for this aging technology. CDs are convenient still and shipping an adapter to fit a mini disc is ridicules the whole idea of ease of use and shipping cost savings.
post #15 of 71
Of course, no adapter will work for non-standard shape discs, like the credit-card-shape ones I like to use when giving small quantities of data to people. For that, nothing other than a tray-loading drive will suffice.

Unfortunately, Apple has all but eliminated tray-loading drives (only the Mac Pro uses them today), and it's very rare to find tray-loaders in cars (Sony had one model, but I don't think it's being sold anymore.)
post #16 of 71
Boy... why not just go for the shield-less thumbdrives if you want to reduce packaging! Mini-CD's aren't that much smaller, (even the business card size ones) compared to standard CDs... but those iSticks are great for travel. Let's hear it for postage-stamp sized software packages.
post #17 of 71
I owned an Alpine car stereo that could accept the smaller 8cm discs without an adapter. This was back in 1992.

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post #18 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by kerryb View Post

Looks like we are stuck with the 12cm disc for a little while longer. I imagine CD/DVD drives will disappear in the next 5 years when bandwidth and wifi are fast enough to eliminate the need for this aging technology. CDs are convenient still and shipping an adapter to fit a mini disc is ridicules the whole idea of ease of use and shipping cost savings.

So you think we'll end up with everything being downloaded and nothing is shipped on physical media?

I don't think so. While broadband access is widespread in many places, it is not universal. There are still huge segments of the population that either don't have internet access or only have it at dial-up speeds. They won't be downloading anything large, and they're not going to vanish (or give up their desire to buy content) in the next 5 years.

Also, it is well known that content has a habit of growing to fill all available space. In 5 years, we'll have higher capacity optical drives (Blu-Ray, HD-DVD, or some other similar tech), and we'll start seeing lots of our content delivered in that format - once again being too large to comfortably download.
post #19 of 71
OMG, Apple has reinvented the wheel!
post #20 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by aaarrrgggh View Post

Boy... why not just go for the shield-less thumbdrives if you want to reduce packaging! Mini-CD's aren't that much smaller, (even the business card size ones) compared to standard CDs... but those iSticks are great for travel. Let's hear it for postage-stamp sized software packages.

They're small, but they're much more expensive. It costs only a few cents to stamp out a CD (of either size). That won't be the case for anything solid state. There's a reason every single video game manufacturer abandoned the ROM cartridge for media distribution - it costs orders of magnitude more than optical discs for mass-produced content of any significant size.

The overall goal here is to minimize total cost. Packaging and shipping is only one part of that equation. If the media itself costs more than what you save on packaging, then you haven't gained anything.
post #21 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kasper View Post

Does the one for the wii collapse?

Nah, the Wii takes the 8cm GameCube discs without an adaptor. Apple should use these drives too, I wonder if the reason they don't is a price issue or a multiregion DVD firmware hack one.
I agree with the above that if packaging costs are a worry, they should jump on the software-on-usb stick bandwagon like others are doing!
post #22 of 71
If Apple does release a sub-compact without an internal optical drive or without an external drive included they may go the route of the other major PC vendors and use 10GB of the HDD for an install partiton. While I hate to waste precious HDD space this way it is an option. Apple could include an option to copy the install to DVDs and a a way to dynamically remove this partition to gain back the used space HDD space should you attach an external drive. This is all a waste of energy, IMO, but it is an option should Apple release a device that doesn't have or come with an optical drive.
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post #23 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by solipsism View Post

If Apple does release a sub-compact without an internal optical drive or without an external drive included they may go the route of the other major PC vendors and use 10GB of the HDD for an install partiton. While I hate to waste precious HDD space this way it is an option. Apple could include an option to copy the install to DVDs and a a way to dynamically remove this partition to gain back the used space HDD space should you attach an external drive. This is all a waste of energy, IMO, but it is an option should Apple release a device that doesn't have or come with an optical drive.

No, I can't see that happening. Apple stlll sells all it's software on disks, and so do other people. Also, it has DVD player etc, not to mention iDVD etc.

They will surely include an external superdrive attached by USB, so that on the occasions you need it, you can plug it in, but you don't need to lug it around with you to and from work etc.
post #24 of 71
I work for a company that makes CD and DVD mechanisms. We've supported 8cm discs from the beginning (~20 years ago).

I must say, however, that I feel these folding or lego-like adapters will be a warranty nightmare. Can you imagine how many are going to get incorrectly put together or incompletely attached to the disc and then come apart inside the drive?

Sorry, but this idea doesn't seem well thought-out.
post #25 of 71
Really, really?!

This seems like a joke.
post #26 of 71
seems like a waste of filing fees.

does the difference between the packaging and shipping result in appreciable savings?
is the smaller size relevant for when software discs are shipped/packaged separately ? (i.e. could iLife fit on a mini disc?)
post #27 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by thefunky_monkey View Post

They will surely include an external superdrive attached by USB, so that on the occasions you need it, you can plug it in, but you don't need to lug it around with you to and from work etc.

I would think FW would be more likely as it can transfer more power to the device and has a higher sustained read than USB 2.0.
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post #28 of 71
Are we sure this is Apple's filling or even their project? Or is it just this Tony Fadell guy?

It seems odd that Apple would care to develop something so... lame.

It sort of reminds me of:


Apple, who always seems so concerned with keeping it easy for the consumers, should probably just opt for the slot-loaders that read both sizes of disc.

If this IS Apple-related, one has to wonder... why all the new interest in mini discs? Trying to make everyone happy by putting a mini optical drive in an ultra-portable or something?

Weird.

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post #29 of 71
A folding adapter better be very good, as in not fly apart at the hinges when it's spinning at several thousand RPM. I think it would have been much better to use the slot loading drives that accept the smaller discs. I just don't see the value, the cost of the smaller discs don't seem to be much less, it would be more just because of the cost of a funky CD adapter. Apple could save on packaging by using thinner box profiles, even the small 12cm square boxes are still mostly air.

They could actually bother to include the latest copy of iTunes on the iPods, that would have been a valid solution to the lack of a CD in the box.

Apple crams so much onto most of their software discs that it would still have to be 12cm, and their packaging often includes multiple discs. FCE was two or three discs, Aperture had two, Tiger had two, iLife '06 had two, and I think iWork '06 had one, but the programs are probably large enough that it would be more than what a double layer mini-DVD can store. Their hardware devices are large enough that a smaller disc doesn't save on packaging size.

So I'd suggest that this is a poor solution to a problem that doesn't exist.
post #30 of 71
I don't see this going anywhere. The whole process is redundant. The money they save using smaller discs, which is negligible, is eaten up by the costs of development and engineering this new product.

As software because even more complicated, it eventually won't even fit on the disc. And who wants to search in their drawers for an adapter?

I love that Apple is detail oriented like this, however I file this one under "if it ain't broke, don't fix it".
post #31 of 71
I think all you guys who are saying that Apple should just change their optical drives to handle smaller discs are missing the point. Apple has to worry about their software being readable on more than just brand new Apple computers. They also have to worry about the millions of legacy Macs out there as well as, and probably more importantly for their bottom line, Windows machines. Throwing a full size CD in the box with a new Mac, an Apple TV or an Airport router is not a problem for them. Where something like this would most likely be used is for iPods and iPhones which are all smaller in width than a full size CD and the majority of iPod buyers currently are on Windows machines which may or may not have a slot loading optical drive.

Not to say that this particular solution to the problem isn't kind of goofy and a potential support nightmare.
post #32 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by thefunky_monkey View Post

No, I can't see that happening. Apple stlll sells all it's software on disks, and so do other people. Also, it has DVD player etc, not to mention iDVD etc.

They will surely include an external superdrive attached by USB, so that on the occasions you need it, you can plug it in, but you don't need to lug it around with you to and from work etc.

There is also the issue of replacing the hard drive and being left without any original system software.

I would also like Apple to make laptops where you can take out the optical drive and put in a second battery for extended runtime.
post #33 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by whalt View Post

Where something like this would most likely be used is for iPods and iPhones which are all smaller in width than a full size CD and the majority of iPod buyers currently are on Windows machines which may or may not have a slot loading optical drive.

Haven't you considered that all iPods already include more than enough storage to hold the iTunes installer programs? A disc for an iPod would be totally redundant. Not to mention, last I heard, Apple doesn't provide either anyway. Any OS that can't connect to a current iPod without additional drivers isn't supported by the current iPods anyway.
post #34 of 71
A software product we distribute goes out to the buyer on a flash drive, but then, it sells for about $9000 a seat, so the manufacturer can afford the media costs.

That said, I'd rather pay up to $25 dollars or so and get a flash drive with large software packages on it than download massive files and then make my own CDs/DVDs for permanent backup. Adobe CS3 applications took forever on broadband, and included a lot of other .dmgs you needed/wanted as well as the apps.

Flash drive(s) are pretty universal, prices keep falling, and if you make an optical copy of the files for backup, you still have the flash drives for other uses.
post #35 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by rehmbo View Post

I must say, however, that I feel these folding or lego-like adapters will be a warranty nightmare. Can you imagine how many are going to get incorrectly put together or incompletely attached to the disc and then come apart inside the drive?

My thoughts exactly. I've had the "pleasure" of taking apart a Mac Mini twice thanks to its failing combo drive. Slot-load drives aren't the easiest things to service when they go bad.
post #36 of 71
That's funny cause you can stick both size disks into the Wii and they work, and can pop back out too. Strikes me as very un-Apple-like to have this "stupid" add-on.
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post #37 of 71
I think this wins an award for the worst waste of human time and effort ever. All this to shave a couple centimeters off of a compact disc, which already weighs a negligible amount? I am completely boggled.
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post #38 of 71
Quote:
Originally Posted by whalt View Post

I think all you guys who are saying that Apple should just change their optical drives to handle smaller discs are missing the point. Apple has to worry about their software being readable on more than just brand new Apple computers. They also have to worry about the millions of legacy Macs out there as well as, and probably more importantly for their bottom line, Windows machines.

Exactly. They are clearly aiming for backwards compatibility.

This is still just a patent filing though same as the flip open underneath optical drive solution for a laptop and I doubt that'll ever be manufactured.

The best solution to cut down distribution cost in this case IMO would be flash as people have said. But as mentioned, the extra cost would likely negate the savings on distribution (possibly one reason why Sony chose UMD over their media stick format for the PSP besides copy protection) so it's probably best to stick with a normal CD.

I'd like to know exactly how much they'd save by doing things this way.

I also agree that it's disappointing they didn't have the foresight to put drives capable of handling the smaller discs into their machines.
post #39 of 71
Remember CD-Caddy's for the old caddy load cdrom drives? At least they didn't fold up so small I could still find them.
post #40 of 71
Seems to me that CDs are already small enough. Why would we want to complicate things for the user for the sake of saving a few pennies? I think this is kind of a silly move.
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