Optical Drive on MB/MBP now Defunct?

Posted:
in Future Apple Hardware edited January 2014
With the release of the new MacBook's and MacBook Pro's, it quickly became obvious that quite a few people were disappointed with Apple's omission of FireWire on the MacBook. At the same time, I came to my own personal realization that I had not used my White MacBook's optical drive in over a year! In fact, the last time I used it was in the Summer of 2007 when Leopard first debuted. This got me thinking...



Why does Apple need to ship MacBook's with optical drives anymore in the first place? They're such firm believers in the new direct-download digital content delivery system (iTunes music and movies, etc...). They're also keen on the fact that if people need an optical drive, they can buy an external one (ala the MBA). So then I further thought:



Why doesn't Apple REMOVE the optical drive. Use all that extra space (and believe me it's a LOT of extra space) to accommodate a plethora of other components. With that much space, it's possible to build out the logic board, adding FireWire back into the mix, and perhaps even an extra USB port. There would be room to add a second hard drive (so people could use a stable AND capacious SSD+HDD combo) or to perhaps add larger batteries. Apple could even resurrect the old 12" PowerBook concept by utilizing the space to add a dedicated graphics chip.



At the same time, they could mass produce a cheap, no-frills external optical drive priced around $50. That way, no body would complain about the price of an external drive, AND they'd very much appreciate the fact that the computer has a lot of room for expansion. People who want to watch movies on flights or use their drive for any reason could just connect the external when they need and they're good. It's a small price to pay to gain the options of extra expansion ports, dedicated GPU, another HDD, bigger battery, etc...



There are a couple of caveats and reasons Apple probably didn't go this route:

1) As it appears, the new "brick" manufacturing process doesn't allow for modular construction of notebooks. (i.e. the slit for the optical drive is carved into the piece of aluminum at an early stage of production). It's unknown whether Apple will be able to scale the process up to include modular construction.

2) Even if they were able to sculpt the chassis in a way where the drive could be swapped out, who said changing things around inside would be feasible from an engineering stand point. Issues like the distribution of weight, etc. would have to be addressed. If the battery were enlarged, maybe the whole thing would get lopsided? If the logic board was expanded, maybe it could be subject to distortion at that size, whereas now it's tight and rigid in a small space to prevent that from happening.

3) Perhaps Apple actually 'enjoys' keeping things fixed like this, to purposefully force people to move into different market segments. Why give people the option of FireWire when you can just direct them to another product that has FW for at least $500 more? (same goes for the graphics chip and other 'pro' features)



Either way, this would be something GREAT for Apple to consider since they themselves seem to be firm believers that the days of using CD's and DVD's is soon ending. There's simply no point in having that optical drive around. They'd truly be the market leaders they want to be (that DisplayPort change shows nothing but pure leadership), if they took a step like that, and surely a lot of other companies would follow suit. And for heaven's sake, it would bring back that powerful ultraportable the 12" Powerbook was!
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 62
    Hmm... i was thinking the same thing.



    I also almost never use my optical drive... would be perfectly happy with an external optical drive and a lighter computer (or bigger battery). I'd also be free to by a Blu-Ray compatible drive if i wanted!!!



    The new macbook would probably not be MUCH bulkier than the Air if it ditched the optical drive. It would certainly be more powerful as well as cheaper!!!



    I would miss firewire more than a CD/DVD drive.



    Even for watching movies while traveling... I never use the drive... I rip/compress the DVD to my HDD (this happens at home, and is generally done on the iMac, rather than the powerbook) and watch it from there. No toting around discs, and much better battery life!
  • Reply 2 of 62
    Maybe you guys don't use your optical drive but we have to remember that the Macbook's primary target market is students. Students do use the optical drives. They buy CD's instead of just buying them on the net. It's a nostalgia thing I think. I am a student and yet I use the iTunes store as well but I hate buying CD's so that's just me. The Macbook is supposed to cater for a wide range of people. some who actually use it. I don't use my optical drive but there are many more people in the world than just myself. That's probably why the macbook is Apple's best selling product. Widespread appeal.
  • Reply 3 of 62
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,200moderator
    I think that would have been a good idea. I always use external tray-loading optical drives anyway because they are faster, cheaper to replace when they wear out and they are quieter.



    There would likely still be a number of complaints though, just from a different set of people.



    Probably less though because people who like an optical drive still have the ability to watch DVDs unlike the situation with firewire.



    This also makes the machine cheaper and more durable. For people who have kids, you will know they like to push things into slots like a post box. I have seen a few devices damaged by kids this way - VCRs, optical drives etc.



    An external is easy to replace if it breaks. It also means that when Blu-Ray becomes cheap enough, people know that they can look for an external upgrade.



    This also encourages people to move away from disc formats into digital formats. This should encourage use of the itunes store.



    If the optical drive wasn't there, they could go crazy with ports. Two extra USB ports and FW800. You can't go too crazy or the price might go up.



    Removal of the optical unit should have left the prices similar to the old lineup. One reason they went up is the old base white model used to have a combo drive I'm sure but now the whole lineup is superdrives. They're maybe only worth $100 but it would still be a noticeable saving.



    I think this would be a good move to make on the next revision as a cost-cutting measure.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by keantan


    Students do use the optical drives.



    They'd just use an external drive though.
  • Reply 4 of 62
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by keantan View Post


    Maybe you guys don't use your optical drive but we have to remember that the Macbook's primary target market is students. Students do use the optical drives.



    Actually, I (the OP) AM a student myself, and as I said in the first post, I've only used the drive once, to upgrade to Leopard (in the nearly 3 year ownership of my laptop). But I have to be honest, I still buy CD's sometimes and use optical discs here and there, it's just that I have a desktop that takes care of that for me. But as I said, with a cheap $50 external, that would take care of that problem too! Do you think I want to be ripping CD's in the middle of lecture? Haha. There's no point to that thing being permanently INSIDE my notebook. Get it out of there! I hope Apple sees this.
  • Reply 5 of 62
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by keantan View Post


    Maybe you guys don't use your optical drive but we have to remember that the Macbook's primary target market is students. Students do use the optical drives. They buy CD's instead of just buying them on the net. It's a nostalgia thing I think. I am a student and yet I use the iTunes store as well but I hate buying CD's so that's just me. The Macbook is supposed to cater for a wide range of people. some who actually use it. I don't use my optical drive but there are many more people in the world than just myself. That's probably why the macbook is Apple's best selling product. Widespread appeal.



    Yes we still USE optical drives... but rarely. I also buy CD's because I like having thy physical media as a backup... but as soon as it gets home it gets ripped to mp3. Same with DVD's... they get ripped to mp4. When the computer is at "home"... plug in the external drive. But it would be so much MORE portable without that drive the rest of the time. (smaller/lighter, or longer battery-life.)
  • Reply 6 of 62
    thats the dumbest thing thing ive ever heard. if u dont need an optical drive then buy a macbook air. remember how muc bitching went on when that was released WITHOUT an OD. yea alot! i use the OD all the time to watch movies rip and burn CD's. if anything they should have included a blu-ray option. apple is actually lagging in this area.
  • Reply 7 of 62
    Until there is a computer version of the App store, every car stereo is iPod compatible, and digital movies become more than just a niche an optical drive is a necessity. The air can get by with it because it is not meant to be a primary computer.
  • Reply 8 of 62
    octaneoctane Posts: 157member
    I'm just glad they use SATA for superdrive now... it'll make it easy to yank the sucker out and slip in an extra hard drive for some RAID0 SSD goodness.
  • Reply 9 of 62
    backtomacbacktomac Posts: 4,579member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BenRoethig View Post


    Until there is a computer version of the App store, every car stereo is iPod compatible, and digital movies become more than just a niche an optical drive is a necessity. The air can get by with it because it is not meant to be a primary computer.



    +++



    Thanks Ben I didn't feel like taking the time to post what ought to be obvious.
  • Reply 10 of 62
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BenRoethig View Post


    Until there is a computer version of the App store, every car stereo is iPod compatible, and digital movies become more than just a niche an optical drive is a necessity. The air can get by with it because it is not meant to be a primary computer.



    Every car radio IS iPod compatible with a little FM transmitter... even works with a home stereo.



    As for the AIR ... well... that's our whole point... the new iBook is CHEAPER than the AIR, but if you dropped the optical, it would be nearly as light, and WAY more powerful (faster cpu, bigger HDD).... why would ANYone by the AIR at this point??? Without the built-in optical drive, the iBook would be ever so much more desirable than an AIR for the folks who are considering an AIR. And if portability is the driving goal for those buyers, I have to wonder if they might not prefer a second/bigger battery rather than shaving that extra 12 ounces.
  • Reply 11 of 62
    backtomacbacktomac Posts: 4,579member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post


    Every car radio IS iPod compatible with a little FM transmitter... even works with a home stereo.



    As for the AIR ... well... that's our whole point... the new iBook is CHEAPER than the AIR, but if you dropped the optical, it would be nearly as light, and WAY more powerful (faster cpu, bigger HDD).... why would ANYone by the AIR at this point??? Without the built-in optical drive, the iBook would be ever so much more desirable than an AIR for the folks who are considering an AIR. And if portability is the driving goal for those buyers, I have to wonder if they might not prefer a second/bigger battery rather than shaving that extra 12 ounces.



    Optical is dying but it isn't dead.



    Don't rush so fast to discard it. It still is used quite often by a lot of users.



    As Ben said, for users with unique needs the Air is great. But for mainstream users optical is a very desirable feature at this time.



    Frankly, IMO, the biggest competition for the AIr isn't the MB but are netbooks. An ASUS eee with ubuntu and open office is a sub $500 machine. Probably as capable at internet use and working with office documents as the air for less than a third the price. Also just as portable.
  • Reply 12 of 62
    I didn't mean to imply that the CD et al were dead (or even dying.) In fact, I would think it would make perfect sense to package the external CD drive (you know... the one they made for the AIR) WITH a MacBook. I can't help but think I'm a more-or-less "average" MacBook user, and that situation would actually be preferable to me than having to tote around the drive during the 99% of the time when I don't want it. I could be way off on how most folks use their notebook computers though.
  • Reply 13 of 62
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post


    I didn't mean to imply that the CD et al were dead (or even dying.) In fact, I would think it would make perfect sense to package the external CD drive (you know... the one they made for the AIR) WITH a MacBook. I can't help but think I'm a more-or-less "average" MacBook user, and that situation would actually be preferable to me than having to tote around the drive during the 99% of the time when I don't want it. I could be way off on how most folks use their notebook computers though.



    I was JUST about to say this! It's not that I'm advocating the complete removal of optical drives from our computing lives entirely. I'm merely saying that why should we be forced to lug around that thing when some (and I suspect many) rarely use it?



    The optical drive can be offered at a low price or even shipped with the MacBook. All of you who have said you use the thing for ripping, etc... You're trying to tell me that you NEED to RIP music and DVD's on the ROAD!? You absolutely just HAVE to rip you're CD collection when you're in class or at a meeting? That doesn't make sense. You do those things when you're at home, when you can easily attach an external. So why WOULDN'T you enjoy the wonderful benefits of more expansion ports, a bigger battery, a second hard drive, etc? Doesn't that make more sense to you all? Just remember, you can still keep your optical drive, just not with you 24/7. Let's not even get into how much USB thumbdrives have really replaced CD's too (For shuffling around data at least).



    I would also like to add that unlike the omission of an expansion port (like FireWire), you can always hook up an external optical drive. You can't actually hook-up FireWire to your MacBook because that's an internal bus-specific interface, and you can't convert it into any of the ports that are already on the machine. So you can't even compare the "loss" of optical to the true loss of FireWire.
  • Reply 14 of 62
    I agree in large part. The loss of Firewire on the MacBooks is a more substantial omission than the loss of the optical drive would be. However, it is true that the MB target demographic would react more harshly to the removal of the optical drive than they would/have to the removal of Firewire.
  • Reply 15 of 62
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Big Mac View Post


    I agree in large part. The loss of Firewire on the MacBooks is a more substantial omission than the loss of the optical drive would be.



    If the Macbook is your only computer and it doesn't have an optical drive, how exactly do you add software, upgrade the operating system, or reinstall should there be a problem? Optical devices will go away some day, but there are a lot of issues to take care of before they do.
  • Reply 16 of 62
    mcarlingmcarling Posts: 1,106member
    Most users don't need an optical drive, but the few who do need one can buy an external optical drive. I bought the external optical drive to go with my MacBook Air, but I've never needed to use it. I would never want to buy another laptop with an internal optical drive.



    The newly released MacBook and MacBook Pro will be with us for two or three years. I'm confident their replacements will not have internal optical drives. They will not be modular, but rather thinner, lighter, less expensive, more reliable and have better battery life.
  • Reply 17 of 62
    frank777frank777 Posts: 5,773member
    All the design needs is flexibility.



    Ship the MacBook with an optical, but make it modular so that an extra battery or hard drive can be swapped in and out effortlessly. This means you can still load new software from disc when needed, but can travel without the optical as well. Apple makes twice as much on its overpriced accessories. Win-Win!



    I agree, this is much less of an issue than leaving out Firewire.
  • Reply 18 of 62
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by BenRoethig View Post


    If the Macbook is your only computer and it doesn't have an optical drive, how exactly do you add software, upgrade the operating system, or reinstall should there be a problem? Optical devices will go away some day, but there are a lot of issues to take care of before they do.



    Read the posts!... no-one is saying there shouldn't be an optical drive.... just that it seems to make more sense as an external accessory that's only attached during the few times you actually need it ... not carried around as an integral part of the laptop.
  • Reply 19 of 62
    backtomacbacktomac Posts: 4,579member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by KingOfSomewhereHot View Post


    Read the posts!... no-one is saying there shouldn't be an optical drive.... just that it seems to make more sense as an external accessory that's only attached during the few times you actually need it ... not carried around as an integral part of the laptop.



    I would argue that with Apple's product designs I'm forced to carry more accessories than I should already.



    This would only make it worse. Need to download pictures from a camera, pull out the card reader. Need to hook up a projector to my MBP , then get the DVI to VGA adaptor.



    Now I need to lug around an external DVD drive? Enough is enough.



    Oh and did you remember that the MBs and MBPs only come with 2 USB ports?
  • Reply 20 of 62
    MarvinMarvin Posts: 14,200moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by backtomac View Post


    Now I need to lug around an external DVD drive? Enough is enough.



    Most people still carry a power adaptor around. I know it's one more thing but given the frequency of use that optical drives get, it makes sense.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by backtomac View Post


    Oh and did you remember that the MBs and MBPs only come with 2 USB ports?



    That's what the space could be used for though. Imagine two extra USB and firewire on top, maybe eSATA or expressCard too. An optical drive takes up a lot of room.



    Apple had removable optical drive units in some of their very old laptop models. They had a laptop once with a floppy and optical drive that could be switched. They can't do this with a moulded case so it's best to leave it out.



    The advantages are:

    lighter, more room, cheaper, no chance you'll have to repair the drive outside of warranty

    The disadvantages are:

    people who use the drive have to carry a small drive around or have to start carrying stuff on the HD instead
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