Between the Mac Mini, MacBook Air and downloadable version of OS X Lion, Apple is clearly moving toward a future without DVDs. And why not? Optical media can seem superfluous in an age where digital files are easily transferred over the Internet or on a thumb drive.
But while many would love to see the DVD’s demise — myself included — they’re not going away any time soon. Here are five reasons why the DVD is sticking around despite Apple’s best efforts.
DVDs are cheaply distributable
If you ever need to distribute digital content to a lot of people in the real world, optical media is the cheapest way to do it. You can get a spindle of 50 DVDs for about $10, while you’ll pay about the same price for a single 4 GB USB stick. Until USB storage becomes dirt cheap or people lose the desire to distribute digital media by hand, DVDs will be necessary to cut costs.
DVDs can be borrowed or sold
You’re at a friend’s house and he’s got a DVD copy of a movie you’ve been dying to see, so he lends it to you for the weekend and you get to watch it free of charge. Good luck doing that with a DRM-laden digital file that was purchased on iTunes or Amazon.
DVD movies can be easier to find
After watching “Tron: Legacy” in a theater last year, I was shocked to discover that the original “Tron” was not available to rent on iTunes (though you can now buy it outright for $15). The same problem doesn’t exist with DVD rentals through Netflix, which might explain why so many people freaked out about higher Netflix prices. Until movie studios fully embrace streams and downloads, we’ll have to rely on DVDs to fill in the gaps.
DVD movies are idiot-proof
Put the disc in the drive and press play. That’s all it takes to start watching a movie on DVD. With digital files, you’ve got to navigate through menus on a game console or set-top box, and that’s assuming you’ve run into no problems transferring the file from one device to the next.
Everyone doesn’t have a high-speed connection
Techies tend to forget that a significant chunk of the US population still doesn’t have high-speed Internet. In 2010, the percentage of homes without broadband was 30 percent in urban areas and 40 percent in rural areas, according to a survey by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration. So while you might assume that everyone’s getting their movies and installing their software through the Internet, many Americans don’t even have the means to do so.
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