When Apple launched refreshed hardware last week, it was no surprise that the ultrathin MacBook Air still does not have an internal DVD drive. Many were shocked to find out, though, that Apple has now also removed the DVD drive from the Mac mini. But, Apple shouldn’t stop there, and the revolution shouldn’t be limited to Apple, or even just to PCs for that matter. It’s time for discs to die.
Don’t get me wrong, discs were great and contributed to the evolution of technology—I greatly appreciated when CDs came along to replace stacks upon stacks of floppy disks. We are now at a point, though, where discs are unnecessary and cause more problems than they solve. Here are six reasons I won’t be sad to see discs go.
The optical drive has mechanical parts that spin the disc at high speed while the data is read using a laser. Even if you can’t obviously hear it, the whirring of the drive adds ambient noise. In some cases, like with my Xbox 360 drive, the spinning of the drive is audible and annoying from the next room.
Devices with mechanical parts that spin at high speed eventually break. Disc drives can collect dust, which can affect the ability of the laser to read the data. Looking back over the last decade, disc drives have been the number one cause of repair and replacement costs for me whether it’s in a desktop or notebook PC, a game console like the Nintendo Wii or Xbox 360, or the variety of DVD and Blu-ray players I have gone through.
Whether we are talking about an Xbox 360, a desktop PC, or a portable notebook, a disc drive consumes more energy than the alternatives. Using a CD or DVD drive greatly reduces battery life on portable devices.
Reading data from a solid-state drive (SSD), or even from a hard drive is exponentially faster than reading that same data from a CD or DVD. Your mileage will vary depending on the drives you’re comparing, but you will get significantly better performance from data stored locally on a drive than you will reading it from a CD or DVD.
This is the main reason I won’t be sad to see discs go—the discs. They take up space. If you need to reinstall a program a year later, you have to try and remember where you stored the disc, and hope it is not unusably scratched or cracked. Hard drive capacity is cheap and virtually limitless, and it can be easily searched to find what you’re looking for.
I bought a Blu-ray player over a year ago. I own one Blu-ray movie and I can count on one hand the number I have rented. Why? The player also connects to my internet connection and provides streaming media content, enabling me to choose and watch movies instantly rather than going to a video store or waiting for a disc to arrive in the mail.
The same convenience applies with computer software, and with console games. Why deal with having to get or wait for a physical disc when the software can be delivered over the Internet in a few minutes?
Time to move on
I don’t care that Apple ditched the drive in the Mac mini, or that it only offers (for now) Mac OS X Lion as a digital download. I don’t mind that Netflix seems to be intentionally driving customers away from using physical DVDs. I welcome rumours that Microsoft might develop a disc-less Xbox console.
Thank you for your service CDs and DVDs, but your time has passed. Buh-bye.