Under The Wire

Under The Wire

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Is the MacBook Air killing CDs?

Well, I must admit it: I hate CDs and I hate DVDs; I have always hated them because they're so big (12-cm diameter!) and so easily damageable. In a word made of iPod nanos they just look old and oversized.But... can one live without CDs and DVDs? I guess this is what Steve Jobs must have asked himself when the MacBook Air project started.
Why do computers have an optical drive?
1.  The first reason is to play and rip music CDs: but we have been having the cheap and cool iTunes Store for quite a long time now and well... it is a great alternative (even if I'd prefer lossless songs); moreover, thanks to the iPod (and MP3 players in general), we won't miss the bulky CD players.
2. Then we play DVDs: will we really do that anymore with Digital Copy and the iTunes Rental service?
3. We also use CDs and DVDs to backup our documents: but simply this is so unnatural! Taking a CD/DVD, initializing it (if it's "RW") and burning it is just a tedious operation: my last "optical" backup is now three years old. Luckly we have Time Machine (and Time Capsule): everything is much easier (and sometimes even fun!).
4.  Last but not least: we use our optical drive to install software; whether it is called Leopard or Microsoft Office we use a CD/DVD to install it. I think this is the only point where CDs and DVDs win: inserting a disc and double-clicking the installer is idiot-proof, everything feels natural; on the other side Remote Disc requires so much setup, certainly too much for a novice (think about your mum!).

So... is Remote Disc the solution to software installation?
I guess not; but I strongly believe that Apple is conscious of this fact and won't leave things as they are.
I think that the next step will be the disappearance of software sold on CD/DVD: Apple already has the technology to deliver stuff via the Internet and I don't think it will miss the chance to innovate once again.

When that happens, CD will be definitely killed. 



Killing optical support?! It's a very difficult (and fascinating) proposal.
Thinking about waht you wrote I've some thoughts...

1. I still buy some audio CDs and every time a I buy one I always rip it on my PCs (usually MP3 320 kbps). What about acquiring all my music from the Web?! Yes, it's a good idea but I think it's not so much cheap and sometimes I like having the CD cover.
2. Yes, we will really play DVDs (or BR-DVDs/HD-DVDs) for quite a long time. Have you heard about the "non-HD quality" of HD movie available on iTunes Movie Rental? It's normal, to have the same quality of a BR-DVDs/HD-DVDs we need a broad band not 2/7 Mbps (when?!) we have nowadays.
3. I agree with you, I usually backup all my stuff on a second hard drive using rsync over the network. CDs and DVDs are too small, to backup my data I need some BD-DVDs or HD-DVDs.

Remote Disc is a partial solution because it doesn't permit to solve all the problems you list above. And I think optical support will follow us for quite a long time considering that operating systems need them to be installed. I don't want to install the whole operating system using Web support although it's possibile using EFI capabilities.

My thought?! Long life to external optical drive (and it's better to include it in every PC completely free and not for 99$)!

Enrico Giordani

I picture Steve thinking "I don't wanto to take part to the HD DVD vs BlueRay war, what can I do to not be involved?"


LOL... that's true Enrico. ;)


Removing something as crucial as an optical drive, while seeming a great idea and very sensible at first, will only help to make users realise they can't live without it.

Of course, Apple have a vested interest in users going all-digital so it's not so strange they'd think of this as a great idea.

Remote Disc is not much of a solution as it requires support hardware for it to function, only adding to the cost of the already expensive Macbook Air.

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