Apple wants to make Mac Book smaller… By putting Optical Disc Drive at the Bottom

Apple may be focused on reinventing the phone with the iPhone, but that doesn’t mean that it has forgot about it’s notebooks. Recent Apple’s patent filings (see here and here ) show that they put their R&D types on one insurmountable problem that limits the possibilities of ultraportable laptops to get thinner and smaller. And that problem is – ” Where to put the Optical Disc Drive (ODD)?

The drive itself is a pretty bulky thing. With all the necessary EMI shielding and structural integrity elements it gets even bigger. It is the biggest component of ultraportable laptop apart from LCD and keyboard. And it wastes even more space because it has to be mounted along one side edge of the computer, usually in that precious space in front of the keyboard where a lot of other goodies might be stuffed in. Right? Right?

Not necessarily. Apple thinks that it has found a much better place to put the Optical Disc Drive: at the bottom of the MacBook:

Apple Optical Disc Drive Bottom MAc Book

Sounds stupid, doesn’t it? The first thought that comes to mind is -“How on earth I will access my disc if it’s underneath my laptop?”. But it’s not as stupid as it appears in the beginning.

Think about it. How often do you really need the optical disc access? And when inserting or taking out the disc you stop other things you are doing on your Mac Book anyway. So is it really that much more trouble to close the lid, turn over you notebook and then insert the disc?

If implemented the right way it really might work. And if anyone can do it right, it’s Apple. They will go about it the following way:

  • Implement mobile motion module (MMM) that detects the orientation and movement of the computer, so you can not open ODD accidentally.
  • put the optical drive underneath the laptop just behind the keyboard area thus saving a lot precious space in the front area of the notebook.
  • put an active user interface to operate the ODD. The active user interface includes:
    • The actuation button which may be, for example, a capacitative sensor for user contact to initiate opening of the door.
    • The indicator light may illuminate (e.g., blink) to provide a warning that the door is about to open.
    • In order to keep the surface of the bottom of the portable computer smooth, the actuation button and the indicator light may each be mounted flush on the bottom surface

The motion sensor determines the position of the laptop and keeps the ODD door closed when computer is in normal operation mode. When you turn it over and press the “Open” button, the door pops up. Or you can give “disc eject” command with a keyboard shortcut and mouse command. After giving such a command you close the lid, turn over your ultraportable and the door is released automatically. You put in or take out the disc. Close the door and resume your work. That’s it.

And you don’t even have to remember to put the disc in upside down, as is the case with many of the slot loading drives today.

If this makes my ultraportable Mac Book thinner, lighter and smaller then any PC around and the only difference is that I have to turn it upside down when changing DVD’s…

Well, I think Apple is on to something here.

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Author: Stasys Bielinis

While I like to play with the latest gadgets, I am even more interested in broad technology trends. With mobile now taking over the world - following the latest technology news, looking for insights, sharing and discussing them with passionate audience - it's hard to imagine a better place for me to be. You can find me on Twitter as @UVStaska'

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  • gagman

    Main issue I have at the moment is what will happen when preasure is applied to that think cover on the bottom protecting the cd. not all of use use our laptops on flat table tops.

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  • Timyjl

    That design would get hammered in a students backpak

  • mikey

    Good idea, but it’s prety much the clamshell openning that sounds useful here. Why not a popup keyboard to give access to a center-mounted optical drive?

  • spellcheck

    it’s = it is
    its = belonging to it
    waists = multiple areas immediately above the hips

  • Michael Z.

    The patent applications are worth a look, especially the illustrations of alternate access doors: irises, sliders, and disappearing covers.

    Whatever Apple finally comes up with will be very slick. One wonders what other innovations the arrangement of the drive mechanism centred under the trackpad allows.

  • Michael Z.

    As long as there’s spellchecking going on: waists → wastes.

  • Phil F

    all i can say is i can see almost everyone dropping the laptop once or twice when they are trying to figure out how to use this on the road, because no one that is going to be useing this laptop is going to be sitting at a desk when they are useing it. its is the stupidest idea i have ever seen come out of apple, besides naming their phone “iPhone” when they know that Cisco has the rights to the name.

  • Reid Young

    The under-the-keyboard idea is a really interesting one, but I wonder if that would require much more expensive parts to accomodate the keyboard.

    But that got me thinking, and it sure would be interesting if it wasn’t just the optical drive, but a whole host of things hidden under the keyboard. The entire keyboard might just lift up in the same manner that the laptop’s lid opens up, and there you’ve got the optical drive, and…well, it sounded better in my head. But surely there are other things that could be placed there?

  • Bowen

    This is so f**king stupid I can hardly believe it. If it’s only used so rarely that putting it on the *bottom* of the laptop won’t get in the way of using it, a frigging *optional*, *external* USB optical drive would be that much more unobtrusive, and a much bigger benefit the other 99% of the time, when you’re *carrying* the silly thing around! Apple should just get rid of the internal optical drive entirely! It’s about time.

  • Nick Morton

    One way they could make the keyboard more sturdy is by using little contact points that the keyboard sits on rather than the plastic strip.

  • Reid Young


    Wow, is it really worth getting so upset over? No one even knows if this is going to end up in the production models.

    I like my Macbook because I put it in my bag, and I’m ready to do anything — the only other thing I could possibly *need* is the power cord.

  • xxdesmus

    What a terrible idea.

    It would very annoying to have to flip over the laptop every time you wanted to put a cd in … interesting idea, but not very practical.

  • duh

    Ummm, comparing this craptastic design to the iPhone is offensive to the iPhone.

    This seems like a pretty half-assed solution. Optical drives are old and obsolete. Let’s forget about finding more effecient ways of configuring cd drive placement and instead work on a REPLACEMENT.

  • double duh

    Waists??? come on, did you not learn that in grade school?

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  • Alpha-D

    It seems like a neat idea, but i’m sitting on my macbook right now, and quite frankly, the thickness is not really an issue right now. I just flipped over my macbook and imagined putting in a CD and it’s not practical at all. Unless you could some how lean it on the back of the screen, you would have to hold the laptop upside down with one hand, and insert the cd with the other, including opening the cd case, taking the cd out, and opening the little door to put in the CD itself. All with one hand… A real pain. I’d much rather have my laptop a centimeter thicker then have to flip over my macbook when burning cds.

  • Nathan

    I agree with mikey, put it under the keyboard. It is not a good idea to flip your notebook computer around when it is powered up. Think of those Gyroscopic hand balls. What happens when you twist your arm, they apply gyroscopic force. This happens to a hard drive as well. Test it out on an old damaged hard drive. Plug it into a computer to spin it up, once spun up. un plug it and while holding it rotate your hands in different directions, you can feel the gyroscopic force.
    Hard drives are already sensitive enough.

  • Anonymous

    Waist != waste

  • Scott Nolan

    Better idea – take the optical drive out of the laptop entirely and simply plug it in via USB or Firewire or special port for optical drives.

    Less volume, less weight, one less mechanical thing to power (longer battery life).

    People who really need the optical carried with can drag the drive along, or buy the bigger laptop with the optical drive attached. People who only rarely and occasionally install new applications or rip music from CD can leave their bulky optical drives at home and carry less non-essential stuff.

    I so want an Apple sub-notebook.

  • Sam

    How about a little device you just wave over the disk to read/write it? Or perhaps Steve Jobs will include a tutorial on telekenesis for spinning the the disc? Perhaps he will use his power as the iPod god to make us forget this is impractical? Why does Apple always have to try the most asinine illogical things? Also, the optical drive being accessable by lifting the keyboard has been done already. I had one, pentium 90, 2x cdrom. Worked great until the lcd failed.

  • Jonathan

    It may sound crazy, but I don’t really need an optical drive anymore. I never use it because I don’t play games and I don’t listen to music on cd’s. USB sticks are the way to go. 😉

    cheers, jonathan

  • Tiberian

    Worst. Idea. Ever.

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  • KSUMarine

    Did anyone notice that the laptop in the patent is the Titanium PowerBook and not a MacBook? I’m not worried about Apple doing anything like this soon. It looks like an old patent to me.

  • tjpeople

    Guess what its basically allready been done. Samsung X1 (which i own) has the drive on the top (much better than the bottom! this mean its really really thin.

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  • Jonathan

    It looks not very comfortable when using the optical device. Could be a big hassle when you actually have to flip your macbook trying to get access to your optical drive.

  • Matt

    how about making the Apple TV and the Apple Airport Extreme into stackable devices – and include a disk drive and an optical drive in the stack so that your optical device becomes a network resource. and while you’re at it allow the disk drive, optical drive and Apple TV to work together so that you can rip a copy of your favorite movie for repeat viewing – or burn a copy of the movie you just downloaded from iTunes and have the Apple TV use the USB drive for expansion space if needed.

    I like the under the keyboard idea – don’t care much for the under belly idea – but even better would be a USB/FierWire/Wireless device.

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  • pberrus

    you’re an idiot if you think this is a good idea. how ridiculous would it be to have to shut the lid and turn your freaking laptop upside-down just to put in a disc. i would argue that this is just another random apple idea that they’ve thrown out there and patented just in case. you should have seen all the would be options for the iphone that apple patented. or better yet, all the different prototypes of ipods that were thrown out there.

    this optical drive on bottom idea will never fly, never sell, never work. it’s horrible.

    …and i’m a huge apple fanboy.

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  • Darren

    Wouldn’t it make more sense to use the same design scheme, but instead of under the laptop, have it on the top side of the lid?

  • drluv22k

    i fink the idea of a cd drive under a laptop is silly…. you will apply a lot of weight on your laptop while typing, the weight will put pressure on the drive while a cd or dvd is running e.g playing games or running programs. That is one of the main reason why odd are big and due able. apple just want to brake a lot of world records on there products. NO POINT!.

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  • Dan Marcus

    I loved the gothic feel of the novel car donation, you feel as if the characters’ lives are taking place out of the view of society in a secret world. It’s very seductive and secretive, the book is full of the unknown. Sedgwick is a master of world creation.