I have been wondering for years when this would start.
USB “drives” have become ubiquitous. 8 Gb models now retail as cheap as $10, and cost much less than that to produce. Read-only (ROM) style memory requires even fewer transistors, and I would guess would cost an order of magnitude less to produce. I am guessing that a read-only USB drive would likely cost tens of cents to produce.
So when will they replace optical discs? A DVD is 7.4 Gb. They are prone to scratching. I have had 2 Apples that have never liked DVDs too well (out of the 5 Apples that I have had at work or home).
Today I saw the first sign. Gwyneth recently had her Macbook Air replaced for free even though it was out of warranty (yeah Apple, great customer service, even if that computer was a lemon). Tonight I was filing the paperwork and DVDs. But there were no DVDs! Instead, there was a USB drive inside the package – labeled “Software Reinstall Drive.” Cool.
I wonder when these will become mainstream. The data rates of USB 2.0 (up to 480 Mbps) can handle the typical data rates for playing a DVD (3-10 Mbps), though there are other reasons (cost of production, digital rights management/copy protection) why we may not see USB-drive “DVD’s” anytime soon. But it is a great idea to think about. Besides, just like Nintendo DS games, people will be more likely to lose them and need to buy replacements!
Yes, BluRay has 10 times the capacity, but I think my arguments here still apply, you just have to look a little further out.