All I want for Xmas is no more discs

CDs and DVDs are so over. Why are so many still around? If only one big eject button could make them all go away

I think I've finally figured out what I want for Christmas this year: to never have to deal with a CD or DVD again.

If I never have to eject a DVD-ROM drive for the rest of my days, I'd be a happy man. It'll happen eventually, much like the demise of vinyl and the laserdisc, but unlike those technologies, the CD and DVD have burned themselves deep into the crevices of IT and continue to be an irritant.

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It saddens me to think of the sheer volume of unused CDs I have in the lab, for instance. A large number of hardware vendors ship CDs or DVDs containing documentation, drivers, and software with their gear. However, by the time that CD is printed and tossed into the box, there's probably a newer version of the software out there on the Web, so I just wind up downloading that and never touching the CD.

Burning a CD or DVD image used to be a quick way to build a server from bare bones -- you simply booted from the disc and did the installation. However, the PXE setup in the lab is a thousand times more convenient than the seemingly barbaric act of burning a 150MB boot ISO onto a 700MB CD and carrying it over to the server. Never mind the fact that the CD probably wouldn't get labelled and would become one of an army of lost soldiers floating around the lab space, no one knowing what secrets they keep. Well, at the least nobody would bother to go through a pile of unlabeled, burned CDs in order to save them. They just get tossed.

On the music and movie side, I haven't purchased a music CD or movie on DVD in eons. It seems so quaint to actually crouch down in front of the TV and fish around for the DVD player eject button, drop a little disc in there, and watch a single movie. Same goes for music -- it's amazing to me that at one time I could only listen to one artist and one album at a time in my single-disc CD player. Now, I can fire up Pandora and listen to millions.

Oh, and God help you if you scratch it or lose your disc. See, you didn't actually purchase a copy of the music or the movie when you bought that CD or DVD, you purchased the physical media that happened to contain the music, but that's as far as it goes. You can't legally distribute or copy that music or that movie, and if the physical media containing it is compromised or otherwise destroyed, you have to purchase a full version to replace it, not simply pay the cost of the physical media, which is a few pennies.

I've probably bought "Rubber Soul" a half-dozen times over the years. That's actually part of the record companies' expected revenue stream, and people continue to contribute year after year by repurchasing music they've already bought. With the demise of the physical media, that's much harder for the average consumer to take -- they have an account that shows they purchased it, and they can generally redownload it if their iPod bites the dust.

There really is no place for the general use of physical optical media now. Much like the floppy, it's already been marginalized, but too many manufacturers haven't figured that out yet. It'll take a single vendor shift to turn the tide, much like Apple did when it excised the floppy to much derision many years ago. It'll probably be Apple again -- they're already shipping recovery software on a USB stick, not DVDs.

It's just a matter of time.

That's what I want for Christmas -- no more optical media. No gifts of "It's a Wonderful Life" on DVD, no CDs, nothing of the sort. I'll take a gift certificate to Amazon or iTunes, that'd be fine. Actually, I'd really like one of those Kinect-driven autonomous quadrocopters. Maybe I can use it to locate and destroy all those unlabeled CDs in the lab.

This story, "All I want for Xmas is no more discs," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of Paul Venezia's The Deep End blog at InfoWorld.com.

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