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Not too long ago, we heard about Apple making some pretty bold moves when it came to optical media. Ousting their original MacBook for the MacBook Air and removing an optical drive from the Mac Mini, Apple told the world that it wants to move away from those round discs and use other techniques for storing and moving operating systems, programs, and more. They stuck to that idea when they released Mac OS X 10.7 How To Install OSX Lion On An External Drive To Test It Out [Mac] How To Install OSX Lion On An External Drive To Test It Out [Mac] One of the great things about Macs is that the OS is bootable on any Mac machine, regardless of which computer it was originally installed on. This means that if your desktop breaks, you can... Read More , aka “Lion”, by only releasing it via downloads at first, and via USB sticks later on. While this system seems to be working for Apple, can this happen anytime soon with the rest of the world?

Digital Media

One of the most popular uses of CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Rays is for digital media. There’s no need to really explain this, as all of us have enough of them lying around somewhere. Using optical discs has been a popular choice for quite a while now, and although this isn’t so much the case for music anymore, movies and other forms of digital media still use them extensively.

Going out to the store to get a movie is still a common way people think about getting their entertainment, and such norms are hard to change because it’ll feel very strange to those who aren’t complete computer geeks. Downloading a movie (legally) and getting it to play on the big screen TV in the living room is also hard for those who aren’t very computer savvy, and putting movies onto some other physical media such as USB sticks may complicate things later on, as people will end up trying to play some new, ultra-HD movie on a piece of hardware that isn’t really capable of doing so.

Software & Games

When we get to software and games, the story isn’t too much different. Downloading games and installing them isn’t too hard. For companies, this can also be beneficial as far as anti-piracy efforts go, as the company could control the entire installation process and make sure that every installed copy was genuinely purchased.

However, this would only work in the short-term, and in the long-term there would be some problems. Not only do the developers have to develop a secure environment to run these anti-piracy installations, but doing so will more than likely require server verification that a purchase was indeed placed and that the “key” wasn’t abused (or whatever they’ll use by then). Those efforts will always have a hole though which hackers can go through.

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Additionally, companies would need to keep the services for that specific game running on their servers for an indefinite amount of time, as people will want to be able to install and play those games for many years after it has been released, which will be an extreme inconvenience as time goes by. So far, I still see CD-protection mechanisms to be the best way to go, when implemented effectively.

Operating Systems

As far as operating systems go, not using optical discs is much more inconvenient for the user if they don’t use a Mac. As all Macs automatically come with Mac OS X installed, Apple can afford to not use optical discs (or at least USB sticks later on). However, the same doesn’t apply for PCs and those who build them. Windows and Linux distros can go the USB stick route (which most Linux distros already can, easily How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin How To Install Linux With Ease Using UNetbootin We've already talked about Linux and why you should try it, but probably the hardest part of getting used to Linux is getting it in the first place. For Windows users, the simplest way is... Read More ), but I personally don’t like to use USB sticks for operating systems, especially when they cost some money.

I’m pretty sure that USB sticks go missing far more easily than CDs, which are most often just misplaced but not lost. As USB sticks keep getting smaller and smaller, it’s easier for them to simply fall out of your pocket without you noticing, and there you go. I know that all too well from personal experience. However, when asked what physical media could replace optical discs, 9 out of 10 people will more than likely suggest USB sticks.

Conclusion

I’m pretty sure that eventually optical discs will become obsolete, but there are still quite a few years to go before that happens. Once that time comes, I’ll be interested to see what has replaced them. Who knows, maybe I could be wrong and in the future using USB sticks will actually be the way to go?

What is your opinion on this matter? There are an infinite amount of different answers, and I would like to hear what you have to say. Let us know in the comments!

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