Author:
Mike Adams
07/29/2011

Yeah, this is from Windows, but you get the idea...

Yeah, this is from Windows, but you get the idea...

Lately, many folks on the Internet have been speculating that Apple is heading toward a diskless world. With the recent release of the new Mac Mini (which lacks an optical drive) and the fact that OS X 10.7 is available ONLY on the Mac App Store, it is not hard to see why people are thinking this, and you can count me as one of those folks as well. But the real question is, “Is this a good thing”?

Apple has been heading in this direction for a while now it seems. They have not updated their “SuperDrives” in years and when asked about upgrading the SuperDrive to Blu-Ray back in a 2008 keynote, Steve had some not so nice remarks about the tech. “Blu-ray is just a bag of hurt. It’s great to watch the movies, but the licensing of the tech is so complex, we’re waiting till things settle down and Blu-ray takes off in the marketplace.” While Blu-ray is taking off as far as movies and console video games are concerned, it has been 3 years since that speech, and no one is using Blu-ray as a medium for the PC. Instead, cloud technology has been taking off since that time and it looks like that is where Apple is heading instead.

So what are the cons of not having disks? Well, for one, you don’t feel like you really own the media/software you buy when you buy it through iTunes (well, at least I don’t). I am old school, I like to have the physical copy. What if something goes wrong and you need to re-install/re-load whatever it is? Apple seems to have figured that out with “Internet Recovery” (a way of reinstalling OS X 10.7 on a blank hard drive through the Internet without having the disks), but what if you don’t have Internet access? Hard to believe in this day and age, but it is a reality that people still use dial-up or have no Internet at all. Want to watch that movie? Well, you can buy it through iTunes, stream it through Netflix, etc. Wait, you already own it on DVD and you don’t want to have to pay for something that you already own? That’s crazy talk! Well, you can purchase an external DVD player that hooks up to your USB port, but doesn’t that defeat the purpose at that point?

For all the cons, there are some pretty darn compelling pros too. Lighter, sleeker, smaller laptops for one. Without having to have the SuperDrive jammed into a machine, we could all be looking at MacBook Air thin MacBook Pros in the future. Another one would have to be the loss of the actual physical copy. I know, just a moment ago I was saying that I like to have the physical copy of the CD. While that is true, they do nothing but clutter up my apartment. I have boxes and bins full of music and computer CDs. My living room wall is LINED with DVDs. Everywhere you look they are there. With Apple opening up their server farm for iCloud, they may have solved the problem of storage and recovery worries.

For the movie lover who likes to throw their DVD in the computer, I have no argument against. That is truly going to be a loss. In a recent review of the Mac Mini on Engadget, the reviewer noted how the machine wanted so badly wanted to be an all-in-one media center, but takes a HUGE step back because of the lack of an optical drive. “But imagining how stellar this bundle of joy could have been with a Blu-ray drive (or any drive) is an impossible vision to shake.” In the end, whether you like the decision or not, it looks like there will be interesting times at Apple in the near future.

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