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I have been playing with multibooting from a usb flash drive with grub2 and grub4dos.
They both suggest they will boot iso files, however it is in development.
I had some success with grub2 booting *buntus and puppy, however as each distro packages differently into its compressed iso; it is hit and miss. The grub entry must be customised for each iso, I had more success with grub4dos booting the extracted isos. You have extract the iso to see where to direct the config file in most cases.
I know I can boot ISO,s as you mention, they are very dependent on the distro. More googling turns up nothing about being able to boot a cd/ dvd drive which is a shame I,m sure it would be useful, but it was only an idea. Looks like it still back to switching bios.