Apple’s Schiller on new iMacs without an optical drive, iPad mini value

Like his boss Tim Cook, Apple’s head honcho of worldwide marketing Phil Schiller is doing some explaining these days. After the iPad mini arrived and surprised folks who’ve been holding their breath for a $199 iPad, he sat with Reuters to explain that Apple doesn’t know how to make a $199 tablet that isn’t a piece of junk.

Today, he defends the device’s $329 starting price in an interview with TIME. He also explains why Apple ignored netbooks and how the company, after seven generations of the iMac, came about dropping a built-in optical drive on the revamped lineup and what it means for the future of computing…

In an interview with Harry McCracken of TIME, Schiller commented on the iPad mini’s $329 price point:

Our approach at Apple has always been to make products we’re proud to own and use ourselves. We wouldn’t make something cheap or low quality. When the economy is difficult, people care a great deal about the things they spend their money on.

Customers have come to understand that Apple’s products aren’t priced high – they’re priced on the value of what we build into them.

The executive then went on to remind Apple ditched the hard drive with the MacBook Air, having replaced it with all-flash storage to achieve desired thinness and portability:

These old technologies are holding us back. They’re anchors on where we want to go. We find the things that have outlived their useful purpose.

Our competitors are afraid to remove them. We try to find better solutions — our customers have given us a lot of trust.

There you have it: we’ve given Apple a blank cheque to get rid of legacy tech for us.

And this on why Apple passed on netbooks:

There’s something that happened in the industry…that made that topic meaningless. There were these products being created called netbooks.

People said they were the future. We rejected them because we thought they were poor. Even if the market was going there, we weren’t going to chase everybody downhill.

The iPad became our answer to the $500 computer. Time has proved us right on that point. And now 100 million people agree that the iPad is a great computer.

The real surprise came during Tuesday’s presentation when Schiller announced a revamped iMac, its first iMac without the optical drive:

We removed the optical drive and completelt re-engineered all of the internal components to make something amazingly thin.

Great, but what of those who occasionally need to install software on CD/DVDs or transfer some files?

Well, you can always buy an optical drive, Schiller quickly added during the keynote talk.

For those who’re still stuck in the past, yes you can get an optical drive – we offer great SuperDrive that plugs into your USB.

He forgot to mention users can also ‘borrow’ an optical drive from another machine on their local network, which is one of the lesser known but standard OS X features.

Explaining the decision, Schiller told TIME:

It actually comes from similar thinking as with the portables. In general, it’s a good idea to remove these rotating medias from our computers and other devices.

They have inherent issues — they’re mechanical and sometimes break, they use power and are large. We can create products that are smaller, lighter and consume less power.

And Blu-ray is a bag of hurt, he reminds us:

Blu-ray has come with issues unrelated to the actual quality of the movie that make [it] a complex and not-great technology. So for a whole plethora of reasons, it makes a lot of sense to get rid of optical discs in desktops and notebooks.

Some people may take issue with paying an additional $99 for an external Superdrive, or less for other USB optical drives, just so Apple could make its all-in-one dramatically thinner.

Are you enraged that the new iMac doesn’t have an optical drive built-in?