One of the problems with the way in which Apple chooses to introduce its products (i.e. developing them entirely in secret using a neverending stream of disposable laborers who are shot after they drop so as not to compromise security, then springing the results on an unsuspecting public at major press events and trade shows) is that the company can't very well just ask the public what it wants. Instead, Apple's product development teams appear to rely on instinct and inspiration rather than broad and open market research. Sometimes a product is also the result of a hole in Apple's product line so gaping that external cues are obvious-- such as, say, the new iBook materializing after three solid years of customers screaming "Subnotebooook!" until their throats bled.
Now, if Apple didn't prize secrecy so highly, maybe the company would have collected a few dozen regular people together a couple of years ago and asked them, "say, how many you would like to shell out $1799 for a computer whose primary distinguishing characteristics are a marked lack of expandibility and an enclosure that's a gorgeous eight-inch cube?" The resulting blank stares may well have changed the course of history. Likewise, that whole "DVD-ROM vs. CD-RW" thing might have been avoided, too, if Apple could have asked customers which they would have preferred instead of just having to guess. Luckily, not all of Apple's missteps are large enough to figure heavily in earnings warnings and mea culpas.
For instance, if you follow Apple's product line with the tenacity befitting the drooling Mac fan you are, then you already know that the iBook comes in four configurations, each with a different optical drive option: CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, CD-RW, and CD-RW/DVD-ROM combo. Furthermore, you've earned your bonus points by knowing that the first three systems are available via the retail channel, while the last config is an Apple Store-only special edition. Kudos for learning your lessons-- and kudos to Apple for learning a thing a two, as well: according to MacCentral, the Mac-maker is playing musical chairs with its iBook distribution scheme after having noticed something interesting about the relative popularity of its various models.
See, it seems that the combo drive iBook is selling so well online that Apple couldn't resist making the $1799 wonder available via retail, as well. (Today's lesson: if people want to give you money, it's a good idea to make it as easy as possible for them to do so.) But rather than flood the channel with four separate configs of one product and risk ensuing inventory problems, Apple has chosen to pull the CD-RW iBook (which evidently hasn't been selling quite as quickly) out of the retail line-up and stick in on the bench as an Apple Store exclusive. Of course, if Apple could have asked its customers in the first place, we probably could have told them to expect results like that; for most people it's a lot more attractive to be able to watch movies on the move than to burn CDs-- an occasional task generally suited well to a stationary external CD-RW drive sitting on the desk at home-- and plenty of people would love to do both. Still, no harm, no foul-- and without all this pesky secrecy, things wouldn't be nearly as much fun. We'll let it slide this time.