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The Future Is Probably Still on Disc

18 Feb, 2007 By: Stephanie Prange

Most tech folks seem to think there will be a day when packaged media is a thing of the past, when consumers pick up content whenever and wherever they want it without having physical media to carry around or store. But recent developments may be pointing to a future in which the disc is still a part of the media landscape.

When Apple's Steve Jobs wrote his missive about the need to do away with digital rights management, he noted than many folks copy music to iTunes from CDs, which have no DRM. He used that fact to illustrate that DRM is an unnecessary impediment on digital files that is not applied to physical media. But he also indirectly pointed out that folks who use iTunes own CDs. If the digital world were so much better, why would anyone need CDs? But Jobs, inadvertently perhaps, acknowledged that CDs were still a big part of the music experience for iPod users.

It also always seemed strange that executives at digital movie sites such as CinemaNow and Movielink were so excited about download-to-burn options. If the idea of the Internet is setting folks free from physical media, why would digital movie purveyors want to put the stuff back on shiny little discs?

Wal-Mart's recent deal on Superman Returns is a more likely scenario for future delivery. Customers who buy the disc can pay extra for digital uses: $1.97 for portable devices, $2.97 for PCs/laptops and $3.97 for both portable players and PC/laptops. The new high-def media will make this arrangement even easier, with the keys to digital uses built into the disc. While we are still in the infancy of high-def discs, I'm sure this type of idea will be on the drawing board in the future.

The gaming world is already moving in this direction with hard drives built into the next-gen devices that allow gamers to download demos and other extras while playing the memory-heavy games themselves using a disc.

It is likely that the disc will become the core storage medium, with the highest-quality copy of a movie or game, that also can unlock digital copies for portable or other use. Ultimately, the disc is a pretty handy storage device that will likely find its niche in the media future.

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