MacBook Air Apparent: I Have Never Used My Computer's Optical Drive

There’s this weird slit in the side of my MacBook Pro. It almost seems like a credit card swipe, or a receipt dispenser, or an air vent, or something. Oh wait. That’s an optical drive. You’ll forgive me if I wasn’t sure. You see, I’ve never used the thing.

This dawned on me the other day. I’ve owned this computer for months now and I have never had the need to insert a compact disc or DVD into this computer to do something. Not once. And going forward, I can’t imagine a time where I ever will. Okay, maybe if my computer dies. But even then, I would probably just take it into an Apple Store and let them deal with it.

So this drive is a huge waste of space. Without it, this great machine could certainly be much more svelte. What I want, of course, is a MacBook Air. But Apple seems to have been neglecting those recently. If the latest rumors are true, come Wednesday, that could change.

The most recent rumors have Apple releasing a new, smaller MacBook Air that would have an 11.6-inch screen (versus the current 13.3-inch one). The thing may weigh in around 2 pounds (versus the current 3 pounds). And it may even have a new sort of solid state memory system that would allow it to be even thinner than normal, and faster to boot.

This is exactly the type of system I want.

I’ve been spoiled in recent months. I bought my current 15-inch MacBook Pro a little bit before the launch of the iPad. It’s a fantastic machine, but the iPad has changed the way I view it now. The thought of carrying around a 5.6 pound machine when I could just carry around a 1.5 pound iPad makes me groan inside a bit. 2 pounds? I can do that.

Why not just carry around the iPad? Because as great as it is, it’s still not nearly good enough to use professionally on a daily basis. Even if I were to carry around the keyboard accessory, it’s lacking some of the intensive multitasking properties I require to write about important things like iPhone subway bands.

That said, I also definitely don’t need all the power this dual graphics cards i7 MacBook Pro offers. I need something in-between the two. Again, this new MacBook Air sounds ideal.

A couple days ago, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster said that the original MacBook Air missed the mark because Apple underestimated how many people wanted an optical drive on their machine. I don’t know. To me, the MacBook Air was always interesting but it seemed far too underpowered for its relatively high price. Apple eventually cut the price, but it was still probably too much money. Rumors for the new version suggest a much cheaper price. That could be very interesting.

A lot of people bitched and moaned when Apple first unveiled with Air with only an optional optical drive add-on. But the fact remains that this is the right move, and Apple is simply a little ahead of the curve (as they were with floppy drives, etc). These drives take up way too much room and are increasingly seldom used. Backups are done via USB or Firewire (or the Internet). Software installs can now be done over the Internet or via USB. Movies and music? Same thing. The optical drive is dying. And fast.

Going forward, I suspect the majority of my computing will be done on the following devices: iPhone, iPad, MacBook Air (and perhaps a ChromeBook, or whatever Google will call their Chrome OS notebooks). It’s becoming all about ultra-portability. As Apple CEO Steve Jobs famously said recently, PCs will become like trucks. Desktop computers and these larger laptops will still be around for utilitarian purposes — but I don’t want to have to sit behind one all day. Or worse, have to carry one around.

I want a system that instantly boots. One that’s always connected to the Internet (that could be another interesting play for the new MacBook Air — 3G built-in). One that lasts for a very, very long time. And one that I don’t think twice about carrying around.

Even this relatively new MacBook Pro that I use is starting to feel like one of those old camcorders that required you to carry around a VCR in a bag in order to record something. It’s time to cut out the VCR — in this case, the optical drive. It’s time to continue the march towards portable computing. It’s time to lighten the load.