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While the last update to the MacBook Pro line came in October, the overall MacBook Pro design is getting a little old. But it's not bad. I have a buddy who just replaced his aging 15-inch MacBook Pro with a new 15-incher, and he's insanely happy with the wicked speed boost and sturdy unibody design. But I asked him, "So what about the CD/DVD drive? Do you think Apple will keep it after the next MacBook Pro update? Do you think the next MacBook Pro will be more MacBook Air-like?" He looked a little puzzled.
Another thing an Air-thin MBP needs that the current MBAs do not have: QUAD CORES. Although the Ivy Bridge CPUs will surely be faster than the Sandy Bridge CPUs I wonder if a low MHz dual-core Ivy will outperform the higher clock'd quad Sandys that Apple is currently using in the MBP? Heat, which I suspect is one of the reasons the MBAs slower dual-core CPUs, is crucial and I have no idea how Sandy Bridge will do there.
Regarding optical drives, I too haven't used one in ages, and I bought a current Mac Mini Server (quad core i7!) in light of that. BUT, before I sold off my old Core 2 Duo MBP I made disk images of all my DVD-based installers and saved them onto an external hard drive (MUCH faster way to install giant software suites, anyway). Going forward, however, it appears that most software will be sold digitally. If I ever have need of an optical reader/writer a USB-based one can be had for about $25.00 (no way I'll buy Apple's at $80!).
As for The Cloud, it's a great solution in SOME but not all scenarios but you do have to keep mindful of your data cap.
The problem I have with the notion of removing the optical drive is that Apple will mess with the body of the laptop. I'm not fond of the super slim Air design. It doesn't feel good in the hand or on the lap. Frankly the MBA feels and appears fragile even though it's probably every bit as tough as the MBP. Also, the MB aluminum body is slippery and slides right off the lap too easily...making it lighter only made that worse.
All this to say I prefer my MBP body over the MBA even if Apple does away with the optical. Heck, just fill the vacancy with more battery, storage or graphics horsepower.
We have data caps, remember? The internet connection is the slowest part of the computer. If we overuse the cloud, it becomes a performance bottleneck. How much fun is it to edit a file or run a program over a 3G connection?
What if Apple used its money to abolish data caps and help ISPs increase speeds?
"Heck, in the laptop world, maybe only the people who really need optical drives are hoarders."
Or maybe people still want to be able to Install software Including reinstalling the OS If they need to, of course not having It built Into the laptop would free up space for another battery and you can always buy an external cd drive.