It came upon my notice that Apple hardware have been lacking optical drives as of recent. Notably the new iMac and MacBook Pro lack disc drives in entirety. This is not too surprising, Apple own iTunes of course, and any media that you would otherwise play in your optical drive can be purchased or rented there. Similarly any application you would want to install is potentially available on the App Store. Apple would like customers to use their ‘solutions’ instead of Blu-rays and DVDs.
Since then Apple’s Phil Schiller has gone on to say the following:
“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.”
“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.”
Now he does indeed have a point. Blu-ray is a complex technology, optical media is inherently flawed in that it is mechanical in nature, and thus loud, large, and cumbersome. Unfortuntely the alternatives are not good enough to replace Blu-ray. DVD yes, but not Blu-ray.
Blu-ray is essentially the epitome of quality. The best picture quality, the best sound. Unfortunately iTunes 1080p uses a much stronger compression than that of Blu-ray, the downside of smaller files to download. Similarly it lacks the uncompressed DTS-HD audio of Blu-ray, settling for Dolby Digital (Ars Technica). Finally it lacks the special features that are an important feature for film fans such as myself. This makes for a close experience to Blu-ray, but otherwise, sub-par experience.
But the main sticking point for me, is it being tied to iTunes, not having the freedom of playing the films wherever I’d like. Also the prices are not as competitive as one would like.
There is a slightly better method, used by UltraViolet - that you can purchase a Blu-ray, yet play it wherever you’d like once you add the film to your collection, whether downloading, streaming, or using the physical disc. Apart from the fact the technology is relatively obscure, it (probably) suffers the same flaw as iTunes, it won’t match the quality provided by Blu-ray. The idea of streaming is hilarious considering the fact my internet connection struggles to keep up a 720p YouTube stream never mind a 1080p stream on par with Blu-ray.
Until internet speeds reach the point where Apple or UltraViolet can afford to provide their HD movies at a higher bit-rate, with better audio quality (matching Blu-ray), that can be easily downloaded or streamed, I think I’ll stick with Blu-ray. It makes sense that Apple are removing optical drives from their products, it’s just unfortunate that the alternatives are just not up to par.