At WWDC 2012 on Monday, Apple senior vice president Phil Schiller unveiled hardware updates to the existing MacBook Air and MacBook Pro lines along with a brand new next-generation MacBook Pro. The new Pro sports an Intel Core i7 (Ivy Bridge) processor, a Retina display, and ultra-thin design. But, it lacks two features that until now, have separated the Pro and Air product lines–an Ethernet port and optical drive.

With the next-generation MacBook Pro, Apple is further merging the Air and Pro lines (or at least their feature set) and moving us closer to a disc-free, wireless future. Just to be clear, this trend didn’t start with the new MacBook, nor is Apple the only company to move in this direction. Many Windows-based ultrabooks lack Ethernet ports and optical drives. Ditching these components makes the machine thinner, lighter, and frees up space inside the case.

And, many won’t miss the optical drive. Web-based tools, cloud/network storage, downloadable apps, and cheap USB flash drives have eliminated the need for discs. I haven’t used a CD or DVD on my laptop in years. The Ethernet port is another story.

Wireless Internet is more available today than it was five years ago, but it’s not universal. The office where I work has a public Wi-Fi hotspot, but no behind-the-firewall wireless network. I could use our VPN, but that connection doesn’t give me complete access to my network shares. It’s also very slow. Given the comments on CNET’s first take on the MacBook Pro with Retina display, many people are in the same boat. One person wrote the following:

“optical i can see, and it’s reasonable, but there are still a lot of places where wireless simply can’t do the job, especially when u are in a neighborhood that has too many wireless interfering with each other, having that Ethernet port saves a lot of grief”

In the next few years, I have no doubt that wired Ethernet will go the way of the optical disc. But for now, those who want a next-generation MacBook Pro and still need a wired Ethernet port will just have to cough up another $29 (US) for the Apple Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapter.

For a rundown on all the highlights Apple WWDC 2012 keynote announcements, read Selena Frye’s TechRepublic article, “Apple WWDC: MacBook Pro with Retina, iOS 6 this fall, updated Siri, and more.”

And for even more information on the keynote announcements, check out the following: