The Spinning Computer Disk Grinds To A Halt

As 2011 winds to a close and 2012 begins, we do a little bit of Fast Company drumbeating. We predict a lot of stuff around here. Sometimes we're wrong some. But we also nailed a few things this year. Take the death of the spinning computer disk...

cd scarecrow

Before this year even started we guessed Apple might make a play to reduce its use of hard drives and CD/DVD drives...and then in July we added to the story because the kind folks at Cupertino concurred and released a new Mac Mini with no slot for those silvery palm-sized things called DVDs (the things your kids will say "what are those?" to, soon enough). As it had done in so many equally subtle but clever moves before, the computer maker was making a statement—roughly "there's no need for this antiquated tech." But we suspected the bigger plan would also involve the spinning platters of a hard disk—something that the MacBook Air has always shunned in favor of drop-proof, faster, more reliable solid state drives.

Something curious has happened: The MacBook Air has become one of the hottest-selling machines ever from Apple. And it's inspired a slew of copycats (and by copy we really mean copy...) from envious PC-making rivals. They're called Ultrabooks, and they're being championed by Intel. To a machine they're sleek, slim, portable, powerful—everything a netbook is not—and they're borrowing design cues from the Air wherever the makers legal team sees a possibility. This borrowing extends right down to the lack of—yup, you guessed it—DVD drives and hard drives.

With big rumors the Air lineup is about to get a refresh soon, including a 15-inch Air-style machine with slim metal chassis and a deficit in spinning drives—ready to shake up the core of the laptop selling business—2012 looks like it'll be the watershed year for hard drives and DVD drives. Acer, champion of netbooks and one of the biggest-selling PC names, is already rumored to be pre-copying this idea, and is said to have a 15-inch Ultrabook for $699 on the way (among its big onslaught on the Ultrabook market). All this may get an unexpected boost from the great hard-drive floods of 2011 in Thailand.

That sound you hear? It's the whirring death knell of the disk.

[Image: Flickr user Speculum Mundi]

Chat about this news with Kit Eaton on Twitter and Fast Company too.

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  • Andrew Norris

    Apple tend to be first in these areas because they sell at the most expensive end of the market. It call others for "copying" the use of an SSD drive is a little harsh I have to stay. There seems to be a trend in fastco at the moment saying that everyone is copying apple. Perhaps this is because fastco champions design and Apple is a lot about design. They deserve some credit but let's not go too far. I like fastco and don't like seeing it going this way. 

  • One World Tech

    We are glad people in media are at last waking up. Seven years late, nevertheless waking up. People in One Word Technology of China predicted the shift to Flash Memory more than 7 years ago. So far One World Technology has registered several patents in Flash Memory Array area. For some reasons, perhaps not having a Sir Jony to design a feel-good box or a sexy advertisement campaign, media has overlooked these important technology developments. 

  • Schumann Rafizadeh

    You are right but about a decade late. The credit should not go to you or Apple. It should go to people who started Flash VOS in 1998 and hold the Flash based virtualization patents in U.S. and the Flash Array Storage devices in China long before Apple, VMWare and others started copying their pioneering technologies. 

  • Dan Rich

    I hate to be cynical, but c'mon, seriously? You want credit for predicting the end of the spinning disk drive in 2011? You guys are really pushing the envelope.