End of the Optical Disc?

The tiny module next to the hard disk is a low-cost solid-state storage device that could be used to hold movies in addition to computer data.

As I have mentioned before, memory costs have dropped so low that it’s now reasonable to think of solid-state memory devices to take the place of magnetic and optical storage discs. The USB thumb drive is a perfect example; it has no moving parts, requires no batteries, is lightweight and portable.

Now SanDisk has announced a module that can be incorporated into a circuitboard design, such as a computer motherboard. The uSSD will be available with capacities up to 8 MB when it starts shipping in the fourth quarter of this year. At about 1 by 1.5 inches, the tiny device could also be incorporated into the controller for a portable movie player. At 8 GB, it could hold the contents of up to two standard DVDs. SanDisk has other devices with up to 64 GB capacity, which would be sufficient to hold two or three high-definition movies.

Imagine that instead of managing your Netflix or Blockbuster movie rentals from your computer, you had a little portable movie player. When you’re ready for a new movie, you connect it to the Internet, and overnight it downloads your next title (or titles). When you want to watch it, you can watch on the device, or you can connect it to any display including your big HDTV and watch the movie there. Does that sound appealing?

If Netflix or Blockbuster had a system like that, they would have no postage to pay, and no physical inventory of discs to manage. The consumer has no disc or card or other piece that could be damaged or lost; everything is right in the player. And as an interesting side note, this makes the whole problem of HD DVD vs. Blu-ray just blow away like dust. I expect that this is what the future holds for movie rentals.