Apple developing next-gen ODD module for ultra portable notebooks

in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
As notebook computers become increasingly smaller and thinner, Apple in its design labs is turning to new methods of placement for optical disk drives (ODD) in an effort to optimize the rapidly diminishing real estate of the portable systems, a pair of company filings has revealed.

In two separate July 2005 patent filings with the United States Patent and Trademark Office, published for the first time on Thursday, the Cupertino-based Mac maker a discloses ongoing development of a "disk drive media access system" that would be mounted inside the undercarriage of a MacBook Pro. The system would open "a media access door to the interior of a disk drive sufficiently for ejection of disk media from the disk drive but insufficiently for manually engaging and removing disk media that is operationally positioned within the disk drive."

Existing notebook designs contain ODD modules that are self-contained units having their own enclosures and their own electromagnetic interference shielding. When placed within a notebook, the ODD modules have traditionally been mounted along one side or perimeter edge in order to provide user access for inserting and removing a optical discs (CDs or DVDs). But as notebook computers continue to become thinner and thinner, placement of the ODD is becoming increasingly problematic, the filing notes.

"For example, the available area on the perimeter edge surfaces of the base of the computer housing (available "real estate") diminishes as the thickness of the portable computer diminishes," Apple wrote. "Such real estate consequently becomes increasingly valuable as other services compete for use of the same diminishing resources. However, relocating the ODD away from the perimeter edge of the computer housing base poses problems and dilemmas that require solutions that have heretofore been deficient."

One important consideration in the placement of the ODD, Apple said, is the convenience afforded to the user of the portable computer when inserting and removing a disk from the drive. It noted that users have become accustomed to intuitive user interfaces and convenient access to the ODD through the real estate along the side edges of the portable computer housing. "Any reconfiguration, therefore, of the user interface for the ODD must take into account user expectations, efficiency, and convenience," the company wrote. "It must not be unintuitive or counter-intuitive."

Apple pointed out that "edge access" to optical drives involves moving a disk horizontally, parallel to the plane of the disk. Therefore, it said, removal of the disk from a notebook computer or other portable device is thus relatively simple -- even a person with large fingers -- because major portions of the flat surfaces (top and bottom) of the disk can be easily presented to the user.

"However, when disk access is provided through a door which does not shift or move the disk laterally out of the portable computer, it can be much more difficult for the user to engage and remove the disk," the company made clear in the filing. "Also, the disk access mechanism itself may be vulnerable to accidental damage. Therefore, to enable the user to grab the disk, such a portable device must present an opening that is large enough for the user to grasp the sides of the disk and pry it off the hub latch of the ODD."

The Mac maker said that the "opening" in an ideal next-generation ODD must therefore be large enough to accommodate both the disk and the fingers of the user, with additional appropriate clearance to accommodate the disk removal action. "This can be a substantial design burden as portable computers and portable devices become smaller and smaller," it wrote. "As sizes shrink, it is increasingly costly both from a design standpoint and from a functionality standpoint to have an unnecessarily large access door and open, wasted space around the periphery of the disk."

At the same time, Apple cautioned that an access door that opens outwardly from a notebook computer can also be particularly vulnerable to damage, especially damage to the door hinge mechanism. In its filings, the company therefore proposes several solutions to the problem, such as a breakaway hinge (shown in the majority of the images), a drop-and-slide door, a pop-and-rotate door, an iris door, a garage door, and sit-and-spin door.

The break-away hinge, Apple said, would be a "very robust hinge that is designed to permit the door to break away from the housing base and not to be damaged when subjected to a force that would otherwise damage a conventional hinge."

Meanwhile, a drop-and-slide door solution would open "by dropping slightly inside the housing base and traveling along a track parallel to the bottom surface. In this manner, the door is protected because it is positioned inside the housing base when in the open position."

The filings say a pop-and-rotate door option, upon opening, would rise above the bottom surface of the notebook and then rotate on a pivot, while an iris door would be composed of several separate pieces that open up like the iris on a camera.

The garage door option would be sectioned similarly to a folding garage door, such as a series of metallic strips connected to one another by a fabric or other flexible carrier underneath the metallic strips, Apple said.

And lastly, the company added that a sit-and-spin door would feature a locking configuration similar to a bayonet attachment, with tabs that pass through slots. "The sit-and-spin door is then rotated between locked and unlocked positions, and when removed from the housing base, is entirely separated therefrom," it wrote. "The sit-and-spin door thus has the advantage that it does not have a vulnerable hinge and does not require space for protection inside the housing base."

The July 20, 2005 filings are credited to Apple industrial design chief Jonathan Ive and other members of his team, including Chris Ligtenberg, Gregory Springer, Bartley Andre and Brett William Degner.


  • Reply 1 of 75
    crees!crees! Posts: 501member
    Terrible, terrible design. Seems more like something DELL would do. Anyways, check the grammar in the first paragraph. I mean, run on sentence.
  • Reply 2 of 75
    It would be OK in an ultra-portable. Most of these don't even have optical drives, so if Apple made one that did, that would require some creative thinking. I'm guessing this would be intended for ultra-portables.
  • Reply 3 of 75
    it is not as bad of a design as it seems. the rumor was that this "ultraportable (UP)" notebook was to have flash drives as the main storage drive. moving bodies up and down and flipping wouldn't damage the drive, although that was the case when Apple implemented shock-proof hard drive anyway.

    and if this is such a bad design, where can you actually put the drive? this is the most logical choice. Also, because this is supposed to be very light, it wouldn't require you to hire Hans brothers to lift the computer up for you or anything like that.
  • Reply 4 of 75
    Eww... and I thought Apple was famous for its simplicity and beautiful design... as someone has said, this is probably what Dell needs to climb out the hole. Even if they implemented this, you'd need to flip the notebook upside down (In my opinion, this is not recommended when a computer is on) and one way or another, the computer still needs 8x8cm space to house the disk (you can't get smaller than that unless the disk is smaller..).
  • Reply 5 of 75
    That is a TiPB, not an MBP.
  • Reply 6 of 75
    cosmonutcosmonut Posts: 4,872member

    mounted on the undercarriage of a MacBook Pro that "opens a media access door to the interior of a disk drive sufficiently for ejection of disk media from the disk drive but insufficiently for manually engaging and removing disk media that is operationally positioned within the disk drive."

    I don't get it. The drive would mount to the underside of the notebook, be IN the underside of the notebook, or neither? I don't get it.
  • Reply 7 of 75
    Common guys it's not about optical drives anyway. It's about appealing to the female market by including a compact mirror.

    And it is odd they used a TiBook in a 2005 filling.

    None of those designs is nearly as elegant as the slot-loading drive. They only need to solve the small disk issue.
  • Reply 8 of 75
    I can't buy into the idea that this is a better design than the typical slot drive. It would be more inconvenient under the computer, there's a large potential for damage, and it doesn't solve the problem of 'valued real estate'.
  • Reply 9 of 75
    melgrossmelgross Posts: 31,693member
    I agree with the skepticism here.

    How many people will want to close the lid, put the machine to sleep, just to insert, or remove a disk?

    Not many.

    But, at least they are thinking.

    Perhaps notebooks are getting TOO thin to be practical.
  • Reply 10 of 75
    vinney57vinney57 Posts: 1,162member
    I just don't buy it

    How can the Designer of the Year and the best industrial design team in the world come up with something that clearly I could have done in my bedroom? I mean its only gonna save like a millimetre or two

    And why would they show it on TiBook? Its almost as if they were trying to hide the true final use of the patent or something

    This is just crazy and Apple sux!!!
  • Reply 11 of 75
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    A patent filing doesn't mean they are developing it. It's kind of unfortunate as this allows for patent trolls, one can patent a good idea but never actually sell a product based on it, or, given the lax checking, really have to do any real development work other than a few drawings and the filing. This is unlike trademarks when you actually have to use a trademark within a certain time period for it to hold value.

    If it's for an ultraportable, I can do without a built-in optical drive. I would have no problem using an external drive. If you need to move files, you can use a USB flash drive or a network. The only times I use an optical drive is for installing an OS, installing a purchased app (both are rare) and importing media. Once all that is done, I can leave the optical drive at home, where it's not bulking up the actual device or the carrying bag.

    If it had to be a top-loading or bottom loading, I would agree that bottom loading is the worst of the two, I'd rather a top loader like many portable DVD players and Panasonic notebooks. I really don't think either has a worthwhile advantage over a side-loader. An exception may be if you want to add more slots, but I think there are some tough issues there too.
  • Reply 12 of 75
    kzelk4kzelk4 Posts: 100member
    Originally Posted by vinney57 View Post

    I just don't buy it

    How can the Designer of the Year and the best industrial design team in the world come up with something that clearly I could have done in my bedroom? I mean its only gonna save like a millimetre or two

    And why would they show it on TiBook? Its almost as if they were trying to hide the true final use of the patent or something

    This is just crazy and Apple sux!!!

    It's just a drawing. Don't you remember those patent drawings for the iphone? It will be interesting to see how this actually turns out if they decide to make it
  • Reply 13 of 75
    Might not be such a bad design in a tablet. Just sayin...
  • Reply 14 of 75
    hujibhujib Posts: 117member
    Originally Posted by Cavallo View Post

    Might not be such a bad design in a tablet. Just sayin...

    Exactly. Mind you, I can't imagine needing/wanting an optical drive on a tablet type device.
  • Reply 15 of 75
    I don't like the idea of under the computer, but it is an overall good idea. Perhaps if the door were under the keyboard so you didn't have to flip the computer over to change disks. Either in a design similar to the ones shown with the door visible after the keyboard is lifted, or with a slot loading drive attached to the keyboard bottom that raises up. On the other hand, having an iris door on my laptop would be really cool, if it weren't hidden on the bottom.
  • Reply 16 of 75
    This could easily migrate into a design where the keyboard lifts up to reveal the opening for the ODD.
  • Reply 17 of 75
    we should be using mini cds and mini dvds (8 cms) and slot loading mini cd/dvd drives on our computers. they still hold a lot of information and if one disc is not enough, use two. they are still very inexpensive.
  • Reply 18 of 75
    crees!crees! Posts: 501member
    Or, put it in the display.
  • Reply 19 of 75
    Slot loading disc drive mechanisms need both a servo to move the disc laterally and a servo to raise and lower the central spindle into place. This design needs neither. It's probably a saving of more than a few mm

    In a <1" thin laptop optical drive thickness is the limiting factor. Other manufacturers haven't tied themselves to slot loading mechanisms and this is Apple's insurance if they lose the 'thinnest 3 spindle device' crown.
  • Reply 20 of 75

    1. Which surface of any notebook gets the most abuse?

    2. Which surface of any notebook bears the most weight?

    3. Which surface of any notebook gathers the most detritus?

    4. Which part of your notebook should you never put any force on?


    1. The bottom.

    2. The bottom.

    3. The bottom

    4. The optical drive.

    Given the increasing robustness of networks, impending downloadbility of movies (iTMS, Netflix) and the increasing capacity of flash drives, I'd give as much credence to a model with no optical drive as the next direction to focus on. Hope they're working on that too!
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