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Apple and the incredible vanishing CD drive

Kirk McElhearn | Oct. 31, 2012
When Apple announced new Macs last week, one thing that was notably absent from the new models presented was an optical drive. While Apple has been phasing out CD/DVD drives since the introduction of the MacBook Air in January 2008, the shift has been slow and gradual. But on Tuesday, Apple dealt a big blow to the music and movie industries.

It was 11 eleven years ago that Apple launched its famous Rip. Mix. Burn." ad campaign, touting the ability to easily rip CDs, add them to iTunes, create your own playlists, and burn them to CD. That campaign came on the heels of Apples first iMac with a CD-RW drive, in February 2001, with a press release saying Rip, Mix, Burn Your Own Custom Music CDs. (Previous iMacs had read-only CD or CD/DVD drives.) Now, without an optical drive, all thats left of that slogan is the Mix partnamely, the making of playlists (or letting iTunes Genius feature make them for you).

Weve come a long way since then, and the music industry has come to embrace digital music. In fact, for some time now the iTunes Store has been the biggest music retailer in the United Statesand that's all music sales, not just downloads. At the same time, more labels are selling their music directly to consumers, via their own websites, in often in formats that offer better quality than iTunes Store or Amazon MP3 downloads.

But the reality is that CDs are still a big part of music distribution, and they wont die out anytime soon. Plenty of releases make it worth buying a piece of plastic: Budget discs and box sets (especially for classical music and jazz), for example. And I still find it nicer to give someone a gift they can open, rather than a gift certificate for a download. But for most purchases, Apples move is a sign that the CDs and DVDs are heading for their retirement. Its just a matter of time.


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