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November 7th, 2013

disc driveCNET’s Josh Lowensohn declared a week or so ago that the “disc drive is dead,” explaining that it hadn’t happened to “PCs just yet, but certainly in Apple’s Macs.” There has been buzz about the death of optical drives for a few years. As it coincides with the advent of small, net-connected devices—including laptops in new form factors like ultrabooks, our own iPad rental, the iPhone, and the zillion Android tablets and smartphones—the story of its demise is somewhat cloudy. The choice of terms is deliberate. Let’s put this trend in historical perspective, and acknowledge up front that the interactive Internet with “that whole cloud thing” is both a cause and result of today’s coalescing, interrelated tech advances.

Apple recently updated its MacBook Pro line and introduced the futuristic Mac Pro. Lost in the fine print of a press release was the news that Apple was dropping the 15-inch, non-Retina MacBook Pro, leaving a single 13-inch non-Retina model with an optical drive. Lowensohn says this is Apple’s way of signaling “imminent extinction.” You may recall that Steve Jobs’ insanely great original iMac was released without a floppy drive and soon enough, all of Apple’s computers were floppy-less. Ditching optical drives merely continues the effort begun with the disc-less MacBook Air in 2008. Since the App Store didn’t open until 2011, it was “a gamble,” concedes Lowensohn, to drop a major conduit for getting software into your computer. Looking back, it is hard to argue against Apple’s prescience.

Size, weight, and waste

Dropping the optical drives in the Air reduced power consumption, system complexity, weight, and size. Building on this experience, Apple engineers trimmed the new 2013 iMac’s girth and volume by some 40% and estimated that the new Mac Pro is “one-eighth the volume of the previous generation.” Such other new components as flash storage (replacing the moving parts of the hard drive), high-speed wireless (802.11ac vs. 802.11n), and Bluetooth have sped up Macs by providing alternative connectivity for storage, communications, peripherals, etc. Apple has also taken the “connectivity crown” with Thunderbolt 2, capable of two simultaneous 20Gbps streams. Real world transfer speeds? Recently, Intel put up a demo showing “peak performance…just under 1100MB/s.” Over a gig per second? Fast!

Lowensohn notes the practical impacts of Apple’s hardware-trimming campaign, one of which is a huge reduction in shipping and storage costs. There are important marketing considerations; there are enough environmental benefits to call this continuing reduction of size, weight, and waste a “green program,” right in line with enlightened corporate goals and social values. When you consider the ingredients we’ve discussed—flash memory, WiFi, Thunderbolt 2—it is sobering to remember what is on the way. Holographic displays, gesture sensors, voice control, visual commands, instant translation, virtual keyboards—what crazy combo or brand-new idea will make our devices easier to use, smaller, less costly, more powerful, and more attuned (and tuned-in) to our individual lives? Well, we know the future is disc-less—and we think it will be “cloudy” for a while, too.

So if you need a disc-less computer or laptop, feel free to contact the experts at CRE Rentals. We have the latest technology rentals to suit your office or corporate event needs.

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