While the value of the MacBook Air might be up for debate, the $99 price of the portable USB SuperDrive that can be purchased as an add-on is not. However, those of us thinking we might be able to pick up a nice travel-sized SuperDrive on the cheap will have to look elsewhere.
For some reason, Apple has decided to hobble the MacBook Air SuperDrive. Despite being a USB device which should work with any Mac or even PC, it will only work with the MacBook Air. A call in to Apple has confirmed that the system requirements listed online are correct, and a MacBook Air is required to use the drive. (There go our dreams of using it with our Apple TV's USB port).
This of course sucks. We'd like to think that somehow Apple has discounted the SuperDrive so low that it can only recoup its costs by subsidizing it with MacBook Air purchases, but since a SuperDrive can't cost Apple more than $30 to make, we are left thinking WTF? The only thing we can figure is that Apple's bizarre choice to continue to offer a Combo Drive model on the MacBook has proven so successful in forcing people to fork over an extra $200 to get a MacBook with a SuperDrive that they don't want to risk cannibalizing those sales.
There are other companies that make USB powered DVD burners, completely bus powered by standard USB. See here, here, and here. Some offer AC power adapters that allows them to burn faster, but bus-powered burners are relatively common now.
We're not sure how Apple has gone about implementing this "feature" – whether through software drivers exclusive to the MacBook Air or through some hardware hack on the SuperDrive end – so we'll have to wait 2 weeks to see if some resourceful folks can find a way around this.
News source: Macenstein