Apple has a long history of happily killing off a feature, plug, or technology in the name or progress, and next on that extinction list could be boxed software from the company's retail stores.
MacRumors is reporting that Apple plans to do just that sometime in the future. The move, the report says, would be made to direct users to Apple's digital software distribution system, the Mac App Store. The company made the store available to users in the latest version of the Mac OS, 10.6 "Snow Leopard," and will be making a it center point of 10.7 "Lion."
As MacRumors notes, the extra space taken up by boxed software within Apple's more than 300 retail stores could be replaced with room for goods the company makes more money on, like accessories. The move also has the potential to encourage end users to purchase software through the Mac App Store, where Apple gets a 30 percent cut of the sales.
One other thing that gives this rumor extra credence are the reports from November that Apple was developing models of its MacBook Pro line that removed the optical drive. Apple offers the same thing in its MacBook Air line in favor of a weight and size reduction, as well as in the server variant of the Mac Mini. If that same design ethos were to make it into the rest of Apple's portable lineup, it would certainly seem out of place to sell software in a format that would require additional hardware for installation.
As for optical discs and Apple's own software, in the latest iteration of the MacBook Air, the company began shipping out the computers with a recovery version of the system software and bundled applications.