The Intel iMacs Won’t Have A Disk Drive

by James R. Stoup Nov 21, 2005

The year is 1998 and Apple is in trouble. Steve Jobs has come back and started to work his magic but never the less pundits are loudly proclaiming that soon Apple would exit the business all together. But wait, suddenly the iMac comes out and everything changes. Sales go up, profits increase, and as the ref gets to the count of 9 Apple gets up off the mat and sucks in a breath of air and just like that they are back in the fight.

And yet, the critics were not silent. It has no floppy drive, they howled! How could anyone be so stupid as to forget something like that? How will people move their files? What will they do? How will we ever live without that drive? THE WORLD WILL END!

As it turned out it wasn’t that bad, Apple was just ahead of the curve. Maybe a little too ahead but not by much. Jobs realized that floppy drives were an old technology that would soon become obsolete. Between accessing data via a network or with a USB device, the need for a floppy disk was fading. Of course, that didn’t stop Dell and the rest from including them in their systems for several more years, however it did signal the end of an era. A very popular type of removable media had just gotten the axe; this left many wondering what was next?

Fast forward to 2001 when Apple releases the iPod. It is a stylish, portable hard drive that plays music. With amazing ease you can connect it to your computer and transfer files to it. Why is this important you ask? Because suddenly lots of people who would normally have no idea what an external hard drive is are carrying around portable data storage devices.

Suddenly it is June 2005 and the tech world is shocked when Jobs announces that Apple will soon switch all of its computers over to Intel chips. He shoots, he scores, the crowd goes wild. But wait, there is more.

But what does this all mean? Well, here is a clue. Jobs has said several times that there won’t be a big change and that the transition will be very painless. You won’t even notice that we have changed processors, he claims. Things will just be faster and that is all.

Mr. Jobs isn’t telling you the whole truth.

And do you know what else, Apple doesn’t really care whether HD or Blu-Ray wins out in the end. Why? Because it won’t matter. By the time both technologies are perfected, compared, used and a clear standard is established the industry will have moved on. And guess who will be leading the way? That’s right, Apple.

When Apple finally releases the new, Intel iMac it won’t have a disk drive in it. No CD drive, no DVD drive and no HD/Blu-Ray drive. Those technologies will be obsolete. What it will have is the next generation of Bluetooth and wireless technology. It will have plenty of ports to dock an iPod, flash drive or other portable media drive. And it, along with the rest of Apple’s lineup, will get a redesign.

Yes, I think that once the switch is made Apple will roll out its new computers and they will all be redesigned without any type of disk drive. They will be sleeker, thinner, wireless network ready, and of course, more powerful. In short, you will notice when Apple makes the switch.


  • Ummmm. No.

    Sorry, James, but you’re too far ahead of the curve on this one.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • Stop the presses:
    “New Intel iMac without Disk Drive - all iPods now include OS X”

    Fine print:
    And iPod prices go up $125 on all models.

    But you are to something if AAPL wants to sell more high margin iPods, and give away OS X [free the source would be nice too].  All your files are with you always, same config, same apps.  Every home user buys an iPod, business users by Xserves (and NetBoot).

    mhp had this to say on Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 2
  • I think the reason Apple axed the floppy was because it was already becoming obsolete. File sizes were exceeding the capacity of the floppy more often than not so another format was needed. Apple realized that the CD-R was on the way and they gave us all 100mB on the iDisk for free until the CD-R was ready too. Apple has a lot invested with DVDs in their iMovie and iDVD software. iLife won’t be as valuable without some type of media we can send out to others. If I have to ship large files to clients or send videos of my kids to Grandma on an external HD that becomes a big problem. I think your prediction is extremely premature. Although as bandwidth increases on the internet (and the majority of people embrace paying for the faster broadband connections) I can see a world where we just purchase network storage for a niminal fee from our ISPs and share the large files without having to burn disks. I just think that the prediction is a bit early. We still have a percentage of people on dial up and file sizes continue to grow. We are a ways off.

    Gabe H had this to say on Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 40
  • I have to agree with 1 and 3 here. The (music) CD is going to be around for a good long time, and Apple would be foolish not to include a way of getting the tunes on your CDs onto your computer (and your iPod).

    robox2000 had this to say on Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 3
  • As I have argued in earlier postings, this disc-less Apple product will come—but it won’t be an iMac (or at least not anytime soon).

    Apple should come out with an iPod video/PDA hybrid device—an iTablet for lack of a better term. It would have all the benefits of an iPod (plays music & videos—DRM controlled—from an internal hard drive and/or flash memory) with all the benefits of a PDA (handwriting recognition input, larger screen, mail/web browsing/calendaring/address book/memopad apps), but in a somewhat larger form factor (5” x 8”? 6” x 10”?) with a widescreen display.

    It will have to be very, very thin. This will make it very portable even though its width and height will be much larger than an iPod or PDA. It will be smaller than an iBook. It won’t need an optical (CD/DVD) drive.

    This is the mostly-consuming-with-occasional-creation product that I’ve been arguing for. People spend most of their time listening (to music), watching (video), browsing (the web), reading (e-mail, Word docs, PDFs).

    People spend significantly less time creating (iMovie, iDVD, Garage Band, composing long documents).

    Your iMac or iBook is used for creating/composing; your iTablet would be used mostly for consuming content. One doesn’t replace the other (just as your iPod doesn’t replace iTunes on your Mac); your iTablet complements your Mac.

    Since you’ll mostly be consuming content—rather than creating it—and because Apple wants you to buy your music from the iTunes Music Store, your iTablet doesn’t need a CD/DVD drive. It’ll use WiFi to connect to your Mac or home or Starbucks network to buy and download content. (It’ll have USB ports so you can get MP3s from an external hard drive or CD.)

    So, while James is right that *a* new Apple product won’t have an optical disc drive, I think he’s incorrect in that it’ll be an iMac or iBook. It’ll be a new iTablet-type device.

    matters had this to say on Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 21
  • matters, while I would rather count “handwriting recognition” as a very strong “creation” item I could not agree more. The assumed iTablet would sync via *cough* FireWire *cough* or wirelessly. We will just have a new smart folder “sync these files to iTablet” and that’s it. Or you use .mac and sync wherever you are. No need for a drive. Dang how I want this device. Make it 6x10” with a daylight capable screen, 15h battery and as tough as a Newton, or even tougher. My Newton is still going strong & gets daily use, but try reading a PDF on it, that’s rather tricky (though not impossible).

    Nevertheless, I do not see optical drives going away from home/office machines any time soon. CDs/DVDs incredibly cheap. BR/HD-DVD will be soon. At some point we will switch from rotating carriers to holographic, but that’s it. FLASH is too expensive to produce by comparison.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 371
  • Not everyone has even the capability to have broadband at home, they haven’t run the cables out into the countryside where I am, and probably won’t for several years. So I’m still on dialup. At least at college they have wireless.

    brunodog had this to say on Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 5
  • So, what about software purchases? Are you proposing that sales of boxed software packages will be axed too?

    Until software manufacturers can guarantee that every paying customer is on broadband, they won’t be switching to download-only solutions.

    I for one like the experience of opening a new product an popping the shiny DVD into the drive. And I also don’t want to rely on hard-drive only backups for my work. Backing up to DVD is far more robust. I have backups on CD going back 8 years that I don’t want to have to transfer to a less permanent media.

    If this happens, the first thing most users will be buying is an external disk drive. Saying that the media will be obselete doesn’t suddenly make all the stuff I have on DVD unnecessary.

    It’s a terrible idea.

    Drawing Business had this to say on Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 4
  • Bad Beaver,

    > We will just have a new smart folder “sync these files to iTablet” and that’s it.

    Oh, I like that a lot. Great idea.

    > *cough* FireWire *cough*

    Well, they just took Firewire out of the iPod, so I’m thinking Apple’s moving away from it. That’s too bad, since it feels so much faster than USB. But cheap is cheap, and Apple is competing more on price now.

    matters had this to say on Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 21
  • Hm, I’d say FireWire is a must since the iTablet *I* want also features “home on iPod”-functionality allowing me to assimilate any Mac I come across. *g*
    Or Apple would have to make Macs bootable from USB-drives.

    Bad Beaver had this to say on Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 371
  • The idea of an “iTablet” sounds good. I mean, I really couldn’t understand why Apple included Calendar and Address book viewing on the iPod if you couldn’t edit it’s content on the fly. I say that instead of the “iTablet”, they with the iPod. Make it a bit taller, give it a wider screen and in the menu add a PDA function that would allow you to access the Calender and the Address book and then add a Memopad and make it all editable thru the use of an on-screen “keyboard” and a stylus that would fit into a slot on the top side the casing. Add a small scroll wheel like on the mighty mosue and an extra button that can be used in tandem to play games as well. I mean I’m still using the 3G black and white screen iPod, so why not give these newer ones full gaming functionality? Then apple will have a device that plays, MP3’s, Games, Video, displays Photos and throws in PDA functionality as well. Then they can call it the PSP Killer!

    Frank 'viperteq' Young had this to say on Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 32
  • Your headline is intriguing, but the content of the article is completely wrong.  Apple will have an optical disk drive as long as people buy CDs and DVDs.  (Completely different from the floppy drive, since no one bought music/movies on floppies.)

    But what I *thought* you meant was that the Intel iBooks (not iMacs) will not have a *hard* disk drive… which is quite possible.  Why else would Apple be writing a $1.25 billion check for flash RAM?  Can’t be just for iPods, no matter how popular.

    Nope, something Intel-powered, portable, with many gigabytes of flash RAM instead of a hard disk is coming our way.  Personally, I hope it’s a tablet, but I doubt it.

    legacygt had this to say on Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 1
  • It is going to take a long long time for CDs and DVDs to go away. I wouldn’t consider purchasing a computer without a DVD burner. This is not the same as no floppy. Floppies were never used for consumer content. CDs and DVDs are. I have thousands of dollars invested in both CD and DVD discs. That investment is not a transitory kind of thing. Those discs will be viable for years to come.

    As for replacing the hard disk with flash, I say sure as long as it is cost effective. Unfortunately, right now there is no way that flash can compete with disk on a $/GB basis. It isn’t even in the ball park.

    Will hard disks be obsoleted eventually, probably but it isn’t going to happen by the end of 2007 which is the scheduled date for Apple to complete the switch to Intel.

    All in all, this article shows a real lack of real world perspective.

    If anything, Apple is going to use flash in the new machines as a kind of permanent cache to speed up Rosetta not as a disk drive replacement.

    James Bailey had this to say on Nov 21, 2005 Posts: 7
  • Floppies were *superceded*. What will the DVD be superceded by? As others point out, it will be a long time until online access can.

    Chris Howard had this to say on Nov 22, 2005 Posts: 1209
  • I really hope this will be true for the Intel-based 12” – 15” iBooks and Powerbooks! With the ability to connect an external drive when needed.

    Nowadays, realistically speaking the _core_ software you use with your notebook comes pre-installed and everything else is installed from the net. Personally I don’t even remember when was the last time I inserted a CD/DVD in my notebook…

    Watching movies on your notebook?! No fun at all…

    xeal had this to say on Nov 22, 2005 Posts: 1
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