From the Barstool of the Publisher – February, 2008

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Brian F Johnson

I took a lot of flack a few months ago when I wrote an editorial that claimed the CD was a dying medium. People told me I was out of my mind and that I should basically just shut up and go to hell. Well, this month my predictions came a bit closer to being true.
Apple has released a new laptop, called the MacBook Air, that doesn’t even have an optical drive (That’s a CD/DVD drive to you and me). Oh, sure, you can purchase an external drive, but according to Apple, it’s not really needed.


Now, of course they have some very commercial reasons for this. The fewer people who have CD or DVD drives, the more people might be inclined to purchase songs from their iTunes store.

In fact, in the little demo that runs on their site about their newest release, the talking head in the commercial says that the computer is “optimized for a wireless world.” Which of course leads to his comment a few minutes later that, “Instead of watching a DVD you can wirelessly rent movies from the iTunes store.”

Without getting into too much technical mumbo-jumbo, there is a way to access disk drives from other computers on MacBook Air, so that you can rip CDs, watch DVDs, or install applications, but I think not having it right there in the unit you’re working on is going to turn some folks off.

This innovation from Apple is really slick, but even though I think my predictions will come true, I think they might be pushing the envelope a little too quickly.
I use my laptop a ton, probably a bit more than the average person, and even including actual, real work, the majority of my time spent on my computer deals with listening to, organizing and collecting music.

The idea of having such a portable, light computer is not one that’s lost on me. I dig it. But, the idea of having to access other drives from other computers, or even keeping an old computer up and running just so I can tap into that drive seems counter-productive to me.
I guess it all comes down to a paradigm shift and the old “which came first” philosophy. Will the CD become obsolete because people embrace the wireless world, or will the CD become obsolete because we’re forced into it?

If we’re forced into it, there may be some rough patches along the road ahead.
When someone hands me a CD, I’m still going to want to pop it in and take a listen, and even save it if it’s worthy. I’m not going to want to have to say, “Oh, can I instead go purchase what you’re giving me for free from the iTunes store?”

And as a collector of music, as much as I love having my iTunes set up all anal retentively, like I do, there’s still something to be said about holding a final product in your hand. I can’t imagine bands getting excited about an album that they created which you can never actually, physically look at, other than in a virtual world.

It’s a great idea, Apple, it really is, but slow it down a bit.
See you at the shows.

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