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Remove the Optical Drive?
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zsummers
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Join Date: Sep 2005
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2006-05-10, 17:19

I'm retiscent to start a new thread, but couldn't find space for this anywhere else that would be appropriate:

So I’ve been thinking about my optical drive. I recently cracked open my 3-year-old PowerBook to replace my DC-in card (which is a story in itself). After essentially removing almost all the components, I was struck by how much of my machine’s weight and space were taken up by the optical drive. Over a fourth of the internal space was taken up by the optical drive, and it weighs more than any other individual component other than the screen + hinge and the battery. I would guess that my machine would weigh about a fourth less with its removal, and could be designed to be much thinner.

So this got me thinking. How many of you would buy a laptop (not desktop) without an internal optical drive? Obviously, you would need an external one, at least as long as software continues to come via DVD/CD. But holding the optical drive in my hand, it reminded me of when makers finally removed the 3 ½ inch floppy; inefficient technology, still necessary at the time to do some things, but very, very rarely so. Sure, if you still buy CDs from the store, you might need to burn them over. But I haven’t done that in at least 2 years, and I’ve got to imagine that’s true for many of us. And maybe some folks watch DVDs as they travel, but surely the idea behind the iPod + video (and the mythical video-iPod) is that you’ll stop doing that at some point. In other words, the optical drive, I suspect, is becoming something that only gets used very rarely for many of us, to do software updates and occasionally burn out a CD.

Do you think Apple would ever consider doing this? In the near future? Even if they wouldn’t, how would you do this? Would you do the same-old-same-old peripheral thing: just an optical drive connected via USB? Or can you imagine something more innovative?

I, for one, can imagine a sort of desktop-dock, where you could do your necessary optical drive stuff, etc., when you plug her in from time-to-time. It could be integrated with a media hub, where it might be a permanent connection to your external display/TV/stereo, etc. In other words, it would be an external DVD/CD player/burner that stays hooked to your media center at home (and can play CDs/DVDs without your laptop, yet can be used for your time-to-time need for an optical drive) and is bundled with a hub between your laptop and equipment.

I know this is a bit far out and probably to messy for Apple (motto, think simple!), but what do folks think? Lighter/thinner laptop at the expense of, for many, very little functionality. I personally would be happy with it. Would you do it? How would you do it?
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Meltedbutter421
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2006-05-10, 17:25

hmm not a bad idea for people who need the portablility, but not the optical drive... i deffinatley wouldnt buy one though
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ghoti
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Join Date: Apr 2005
Location: Charlotte, NC
 
2006-05-10, 17:30

There are ultra-portable PC laptops that don't have an optical drive, but I think it's a bad idea. You never know when you might need it, and so you have to lug around the external optical drive, just in case. That really defeats the purpose of a portable computer.

True, you could save a lot of weight and space this way, but many people use it for ripping CDs, watching DVDs, making backups, etc., that it's just not doable. And I don't think that it will become redundant soon (like the floppy disk), as the form factor seems to be rather stable with Blu-Ray and HD-DVD, only the capacity increases.
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chucker
 
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2006-05-10, 17:39

Quote:
Originally Posted by zsummers
So this got me thinking. How many of you would buy a laptop (not desktop) without an internal optical drive?
You're describing what is commonly referred to as a subnotebook. These things exist, and have for several years, from many vendors. The reason Apple doesn't do it is because it would clutter their lineup and add a model that would be used by a very small minority.

ghoti has already responded as to whether optical CD-like media are becoming obsolete any time soon; they're not. There's the CD, the DVD, the HD-DVD, the BD, and so on. Maybe within a decade or two, another storage medium will become prevalent. Something flash-based, maybe. Until then, not having an integrated optical drive is a far too unusual setup to be feasible (even when an external drive is included free).
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curiousuburb
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Join Date: May 2004
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2006-05-10, 18:32

Apple used to make a laptop with removable optical drive (and the option for another battery in the drive bay instead).

Wall Street and Pismo models of PowerBook G3 both offered this feature.
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chucker
 
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2006-05-10, 18:53

Quote:
Originally Posted by curiousuburb
Apple used to make a laptop with removable optical drive (and the option for another battery in the drive bay instead).

Wall Street and Pismo models of PowerBook G3 both offered this feature.
But that's not quite the same. Sure, when you put nothing in the expansion slot (some laptops actually had two of them), it removes a lot of weight, but that's not what it was intended for; it was there to give you the option of either increased battery life, or the optical drive. What subnotebooks are about, and what I believe zsummers is advocating, would be a laptop completely without such a drive, not even with a bay to put one it. It would, as such, be extremely thin and lightweight.
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curiousuburb
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2006-05-10, 19:07

Well you could just put the door cover back on and run it with an empty bay... but it would be lapsided.
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tomp6708
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Join Date: Nov 2005
 
2006-05-10, 20:23

I agree that a laptop without an optical drive would be useful. I would love to have the option of putting a second battery in to double the run time. Smaller and lighter would also be a plus. The idea of a dock for the occasion where an optical drive is needed would work well.

I usually rip my DVDs to MPEG4 anyway. Watching the MPEG4 uses much less battery that wathcing the same movie on DVD and is very useful for long plane trips. I can also keep several movies on my HD to watch at liesure.
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chucker
 
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2006-05-10, 20:40

Quote:
Originally Posted by tomp6708
I agree that a laptop without an optical drive would be useful. I would love to have the option of putting a second battery in to double the run time. Smaller and lighter would also be a plus. The idea of a dock for the occasion where an optical drive is needed would work well.
As has been pointed out, Apple did this, about a decade ago. They've moved past it, because it simply doesn't work well. Expansion bays are a clunky system, prone to problems, only interesting for a tiny minority, and they add to cost, weight and size.

Quote:
I usually rip my DVDs to MPEG4 anyway. Watching the MPEG4 uses much less battery that wathcing the same movie on DVD and is very useful for long plane trips. I can also keep several movies on my HD to watch at liesure.
As smart as that is, it doesn't fit he usage profile of most people.
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Corey
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Join Date: Apr 2006
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2006-05-10, 21:30

With flash memory units growing in size and dropping in price, there is less need for an optical than ever. I have a Dell (for work) with an external DVD and frankly I rarely use it except to install software or make a backup; and both of those things I typically do at work. I carry a USB flash drive to port data to another machine or I just email it. I would love a small, lightweight super thin Mac.
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admactanium
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Join Date: Dec 2004
 
2006-05-10, 21:48

my experience in working with people who have subnotebooks and they always end up carrying their external optical drive with them most of the time. so they've gained some space on the computer itself but added complexity in the form of an external drive and cable. i personally wouldn't buy a laptop with a built-in optical drive because it's simply too common a form of data/media distribution. i often have to burn cds or dvds for clients from my powerbook. plus, if i need something from them or just feel like watching a movie i'm going to need that optical drive anyway.
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chucker
 
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2006-05-10, 21:56

Quote:
Originally Posted by admactanium
i personally wouldn't buy a laptop without a built-in optical drive because it's simply too common a form of data/media distribution.
T;ftfy.
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ZZBOG
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Join Date: May 2006
 
2006-05-11, 03:39

I was thinking of carrying around my future MBP without optical drive (loved the way ASUS dealt with that problem - via so called travellers drawer).

Can you actually take out optical drive from MBP? Maybe put some sort of that "drawer" instead of it? It's a weight concern
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Brad
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Join Date: May 2004
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2006-05-11, 03:43

No, you can't. Not easily and not without voiding the warranty.

The optical drive is only a tiny fraction of the weight, though, at about 180 grams.
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Dazabrit
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Join Date: Oct 2005
 
2006-05-11, 03:46

I can imagine a merger between the iPod and one of their computer lines.

A 13" Touch-screen computer that works with Wi-Fi, .Mac and Flash Storage. Take it home and dock it like an iPod in a simple elegant dock with a couple of USB ports and an optical drive. Therefore becoming a fully equiped 13" iMacPodTypeThing.

With Wi-Fi networks becoming widely available around the world, Increasing Web Applications, Wi-Max on the way, Cell Networks expanding, Google Storage, Apples Data Center and lots of other stuff. This is fairly close to possible within the next 2 years.
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runner91786
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Join Date: Oct 2004
 
2006-05-11, 09:11

This is an interesting idea, although I was thinking, there has almost always been some type of removable media with computers. Coming to the age with faster internet and larger files, companies could quite possibly sell serial keys and activation codes only in stores. You could then download the software via the internet. With so many other portable devices like the ipod, burning music for the car or a friend is quickly becoming a thing of the past. I think in the future, maybe not near future, we *could* see the demise of standard removeable media. Of course, people will always want some way to take and share files, but flash drives address that issue.
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cozmo
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2006-05-11, 09:59

I agree with the original poster, but I think people will adapt to this idea slowly. People always want the proof of ownership in their hands. Downloading media will be the standard someday, but I think 10 years minimum. People in general haven't begun to regularly backup their hard drives. When offsite backup storage becomes cheaper and feasible for the average computer user, then we will see this happening.

My 2 cents anyway.
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Luca
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Join Date: May 2004
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2006-05-11, 10:03

What does backing up your computer have to do with buying software online? I'm guessing this would work a bit like Steam (Valve's game distribution software). You download Steam for free, create an account, buy a game through it, download the game, and start playing. That game is tied to your Steam account, so you can re-download any of your purchased games whenever you want. You can also install the game to two, or five, or twenty different computers if you want, it's just that you'll only be able to use one at a time.

I realize there are different license restrictions for different companies but many of them would be willing to let you download the software an unlimited number of times and have it stored in an unlimited number of places in exchange for a quick serial number check at every launch to ensure that only one copy is running at any given time. It's very good at stopping piracy and it really isn't inconvenient for the end user (there is an offline mode as well so you don't have to always be connected to the Internet in order to run the software).
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