Technology Brief: Disappearance of the Optical Drive
Lenovo's ThinkPad T431s is their latest high-end enterprise-class mid-weight notebook. It is rather light at 3.6 pounds with a 16:9 14-inch, 1600 x 900 (HD+) display and an Ivy Bridge chipset. Most notably, the T431s is the first mainstream T-series ThinkPad ever to ship without an internal optical (CD/DVD) drive.
The omission of an internal optical drive is not a surprise in the context of recent industry trends. Small (12-inch and similar) thin-and-light notebooks traditionally have shipped without an internal optical drive. More recently, however, larger systems such as the MacBook Air 13-inch, ThinkPad X1 Carbon, and Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch "Retina" all have been released without internal optical drives. The success of these systems, along with a shift in software distribution methods to downloads from physical media and a constant push toward thinner and lighter, have hastened the move away from internal optical drives.
Information Systems & Computing (ISC) believes that internal optical drives will be absent from almost all (if not all) mid-weight notebooks within the next year, with many disappearing with the release of new models with the Haswell chipset later in 2013. ISC also expects to see its omission from some larger systems, including certified notebook workstations, in the same approximate time period.
Support providers who need to deploy systems with internal optical drives may need to consider purchasing systems from the current generation. They should also evaluate whether commonly available external optical drives will serve the needs of their users.
--John Mulhern III, Lead for Client Technologies, ISC Technology Support Services