Really, it’s about damn time – and while it’s only a rumour, it makes perfect sense: Apple seems to be phasing out boxed software. The move comes sooner than anyone might have guessed – already, Apple’s personal setup notes seem to hint towards a push for digital distribution (that is, the Mac App Store), as noted by MacRumors:
When you purchase a Mac at an Apple Retail store an employee will help you setup your e-mail accounts, walk you through the Mac App Store, setup an iTunes account for you, and show you the basic pointers of owning a Mac. Some stores will even have dedicated Mac setup stations.
Of course, the question remains as to what will happen to software that can’t be a part of the App Store, like, say, Photoshop (or any of the CS products), or OS X itself. USB-based solutions are a likely candidate (and as Photoshop is a thousand bucks, I think it’s okay for the folks at the Genius Bar to keep a few behind the counter, just in case anyone feels like paying for it), or maybe Apple hopes to ramp up its App Store offerings going forward. Perhaps with the release of Lion, we’ll see.
Either way, optical drives are nearing ancient history, and you know what? Walled-garden-app-store or otherwise, good riddance.