Are optical disks becoming obsolete?
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Are optical disks becoming obsolete?

Earlier this month, Mac guru Ted Landau blogged (http://www.macobserver.com/tmo/article/who_needs_an_optical_drive_anymor...) that he doesn't need an optical drive anymore. That's an interesting premise, but, unlike Ted, I don't think I'm ready to take that plunge.

Ted says that broadband Internet connections, the iTunes Store, the Apple TV, the iPad and such technologies have made it possible for him to do all the things he once needed an optical disk for (installing new software, playing movie and music disks, burning backup data, etc.) without the physical media.

"I estimate that I now use optical drives an average of once a month," he writes. "Even in these instances, my use is primarily for one-time transfers of data from the disc to my Mac. I expect this average to continue to decline in the months ahead. For me, I am certain that the transition to an optical drive-less computing device will be smooth and painless. For the iPad, the transition will be especially easy: there is no disc-based method to acquire software and there is no OS Install DVD to worry about. There are other reasons that an iPad won’t yet cut it as a total replacement for my MacBook Pro. But the lack of an optical drive is not one of them."

Ted may be onto something, and I'm certain that several of you will agree with him. But I like my optical disks because:

° Having physical copies of my albums and movies on CD and DVD offers me a sense of security and flexibility. True, I "rip" my CDs to iTunes and some of my movies to my hard drive. But if I want to play a CD on a stereo or a movie on the big screen in the living room, I can do that as well. To me, that's the best of both worlds.

° Blu-ray movies (of which I'm a big fan) still have the best quality around for movie buffs like me. I don't see downloadable, digital movies matching that quality anytime soon.

° I'm not yet ready to trust the bulk of my digital data to "the cloud" (as in cloud computing). I don't want my data to be on some cloud computer that abruptly disappears because its owner goes bankrupt. I don't want the company I'm using to be sold to your direct competitor. And I don't want the company to cut corners, without warning, because times are tight.

So digital distribution may well be a standard in the future, but I think we're light years away from it being the only (or even preeminent) way to buy movies, or music, or multimedia content.

That said, if the quality of downloadable movies from iTunes reaches Blu-ray quality and back-up options continue to grow, I could change my mind. Time will tell.

 
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