Along with today's Mac OS X Lion release, Apple refreshed the MacBook Air and Mac Mini with new chipsets and beefier configs while keeping prices the same or lowering them in some cases. While no major structural changes were made to the MacBook Air (Thunderbolt added and backlit keyboard brought back!) the Mac Mini lost its internal Superdrive completely. Last year's server version removed the optical drive and now the desktop version is DVD free, as well. Yet another sign of Apple's march towards zero internal optical drives for all its machines.
The move is hardly a surprise. Forget about Apple's desire to be cutting edge. CDs and DVDs as a technology are just outdated. People don't carry around CDs for listening to music any more. Virtually all movies released to date are on Blu-ray or are being streamed via Netflix, iTunes, Amazon, etc. CDs and DVDs to deliver software is dying a slow death (hastened by App Stores of all types) and optical discs never really caught on for on the go data storage. USB thumb drives are more practical and the combination of continuously falling prices and ever increasing sizes make it a no brainer. Would I want to carry around 4-8 DVDs or one 32GB USB flash drive (currently priced at about $40 and falling). Also, Apple just killed another reason for you to use an optical drive by letting all new Macs reinstall the operating system over the internet (very cool).
I'm not against optical drives in general. I do see the need for them when watching Blu-ray movies (though not available on a Mac) or when needing to store huge files cheaply (about $1 per 25GB blank disc or $7 for 50GB blank disc). I just don't need to use them ALL THE TIME. That's why a laptop (or Mac Mini) coupled with an external USB Blu-ray drive is a great solution. You shouldn't have to devote 25%-35% of your machine's internal real estate to a peripheral you only use 1% of the time, if that much.