Well, I must admit it: I hate CDs and I hate DVDs; I have always hated them because they're so big (12-cm diameter!) and so easily damageable. In a word made of iPod nanos they just look old and oversized.But... can one live without CDs and DVDs? I guess this is what Steve Jobs must have asked himself when the MacBook Air project started.
Why do computers have an optical drive?
1. The first reason is to play and rip music CDs: but we have been having the cheap and cool iTunes Store for quite a long time now and well... it is a great alternative (even if I'd prefer lossless songs); moreover, thanks to the iPod (and MP3 players in general), we won't miss the bulky CD players.
2. Then we play DVDs: will we really do that anymore with Digital Copy and the iTunes Rental service?
3. We also use CDs and DVDs to backup our documents: but simply this is so unnatural! Taking a CD/DVD, initializing it (if it's "RW") and burning it is just a tedious operation: my last "optical" backup is now three years old. Luckly we have Time Machine (and Time Capsule): everything is much easier (and sometimes even fun!).
4. Last but not least: we use our optical drive to install software; whether it is called Leopard or Microsoft Office we use a CD/DVD to install it. I think this is the only point where CDs and DVDs win: inserting a disc and double-clicking the installer is idiot-proof, everything feels natural; on the other side Remote Disc requires so much setup, certainly too much for a novice (think about your mum!).
So... is Remote Disc the solution to software installation?
I guess not; but I strongly believe that Apple is conscious of this fact and won't leave things as they are.
I think that the next step will be the disappearance of software sold on CD/DVD: Apple already has the technology to deliver stuff via the Internet and I don't think it will miss the chance to innovate once again.
When that happens, CD will be definitely killed.