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…

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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]

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