The death of the shapefile has again been predicted—this time for 2010.
The technical description of the format has been around for going on 12 years. In that time it has become a sort of lowest common denominator for data exchange. They’re everywhere. Making them go away is going to require a revolution of sorts.
ESRI has been sounding the death knell for the shapefile for a while now. I agree that it isn’t a perfect format but it is nearly perfectly supported.
If ESRI really wants the shapefile to go away, they will produce a fully open API for the File Geodatabase—one that can be used outside the Arc* realm. One that can be obtained and used at no cost or license fee.
There is a raft of open source programmers waiting in the wings to code against it and provide support and interoperability for the open source GIS world.