The new iMacs are so thin not only because of a new laminated glass and screen combo, but because Apple (AAPL) removed the optical drive. Whereas it makes sense for MacBook notebooks to lose the DVD drive to increase portability and make room for a bigger battery, weight isn’t really an issue for a desktop computer because it doesn’t really get transported very often. Apple senior vice president of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller sat down with TIME to explain the evolving state of the iMac.
Although thinness and design most certainly factored into the decision, Apple has a tradition of killing off technologies it deems has run its course. For instance, when the first iMac came out, it chose to include USB ports and a CD-ROM drive instead of a legacy floppy disk drive. It killed off its own FireWire in favor of Thunderbolt. Most recently, it swapped the 30-pin dock connector port on its iPods and iPhones with the tiny Lightning connector. And now with the success of its Mac App Store and iTunes for delivering content, it no longer sees any purpose for the optical drive.
“We find the things that have outlived their useful purpose. Our competitors are afraid to remove them. We try to find better solutions — our customers have given us a lot of trust,” Schiller told TIME. “In general, it’s a good idea to remove these rotating medias from our computers and other devices. They have inherent issues — they’re mechanical and sometimes break, they use power and are large. We can create products that are smaller, lighter and consume less power.”
When pressed on why Apple never adopted Blu-ray drives even after the format won out against HD-DVD, Schiller said “Blu-ray has come with issues unrelated to the actual quality of the movie that make [it] a complex and not-great technology…So for a whole plethora of reasons, it makes a lot of sense to get rid of optical discs in desktops and notebooks.”
TIME’s interview with Schiller doesn’t end there. It reiterates that Apple doesn’t build products based on what everyone else is doing, but rather, it creates products its employees would be “proud to own and use.”
As per netbooks, Schiller said “There’s something that happened in the industry…that made that topic meaningless. There were these products being created called netbooks. People said they were the future. We rejected them because we thought they were poor. Even if the market was going there, we weren’t going to chase everybody downhill.”
Schiller also said the iPad has proven it’s better than the netbook and is the best computer for $500. Others will argue that its 11.6-inch MacBook Air is somewhat of a netbook, although it is significantly more powerful because it doesn’t use underpowered Intel Atom processors.