Does anyone archive finished projects to CD-R and DVD-R anymore? I still do. For this reason, I see no need to lose the optical drive on the new July 2011 Mac Mini. But if Apple is abandoning the optical drive, they could at least use the gained extra space, inside the enclosure, to make a 3.5" 7200 RPM SATA drive standard instead of using a 2.5" 5400 RPM mobile drive. I know Apple is proud of the low power consumption specs on their Mini but this is a desktop machine that plugs into your wall and does not need to give up a 3.5" internal drive for a 2.5" drive to save on power consumption.
It looks like Apple is using that extra space in the Mini to move the power supply brick inside the enclosure and Apple prefers the 2.5 mobile drive in the Mini for portable durability. Apple is also allowing you the option to buy the Macbook Air external SuperDrive with the Mini.
So, the Mini still can be a practical desktop with the 2.5" 7200 RPM internal mobile drive option and the external optical drive option. Without the internal optical drive built in, this new Mac Mini might be more practical than ever as a media server for your family room TV.
If anyone knows what technology is replacing the optical drive for project archiving, please let me know.