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Sony to close Optiarc optical drive arm

Sony to close Optiarc optical drive arm

Sony's Optiarc division, which manufactures optical drives for both desktops and laptops, is to be closed amid falling demand for the devices.

The days of having an optical drive in your system could be reaching an end, with Sony confirming plans to drop its Optiarc disc drive division following a massive loss posted earlier this month.

The advent of optical discs as a data storage medium for computers was nothing short of a revolution: the massive storage capacities available on a CD, holding some 470 times more than a 3.5" double-sided high-density floppy disk, meant that applications could become more complex and multimedia - including full-motion video - became a real possibility. CD-ROM technology also put an end to the horrors of installing from multiple disks: operating systems, in particular, would grow exponentially from six disks for Windows 3.1 to thirteen for Windows 95 and a whopping twenty-two for Windows NT 3.1.

Games developers were quick to latch on to CDs - and, later DVDs - as a medium. At first, this would be restricted to filling the empty space on the disc with audio tracks for high-quality background music, but as the performance of computers increased developers would use increasing amounts of space to add high-resolution textures or 'talkie' dialogue to previously text-based games.

Now, however, things are starting to shift yet again. The storage capabilities of optical discs hasn't kept up with the increasing complexity of games, with many modern PC and console games having to span across multiple DVDs. Blu-ray, while once seen as a solution thanks to its 50GB capacity, is seen as too expensive for most home users to adopt for PC use - and until it reaches a critical threshold, publishers won't use it for games distribution.

At the same time, the internet has gone from being a slow and secretive communications network for universities and government research facilities into a near human right with speeds measured in the megabits per second. Suddenly, digital distribution is not only possible but, in many cases, preferred. Buyers get the benefit of instant access with no waiting around for the post, while publishers can tie in digital rights management (DRM) anti-piracy technology and cut out the middleman as well as the costs associated with pressing discs, printing manuals, packaging cases and shipping the product to warehouses, stores and eventually the end user.

As a result, optical drives are starting to gather dust. Seeing the trend, Sony has confirmed reports in Japanese media that it will be winding up its Optiarc optical drive division with a view to shutting the company down completely in March 2013 with the loss of around 300 jobs mostly concentrated in Japan and Malaysia.

The news comes as Sony announced that it had lost a whopping $312 million overall in the last financial quarter, following a dramatic dip in operating income for the quarter of 77 per cent.

The closure of Optiarc, which creates exclusively computer-centric products, will not affect the use of optical media components in Sony's home entertainment arm.

16 Comments

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Paradigm Shifter 28th August 2012, 11:22 Quote
And yet, noticed how (pre-digital distribution) it was sold to us as "it'll make stuff cost less!" while in reality it has done nothing like that. Obviously I'm discounting Steam sales, as physical retail outlets used to have some good sales years ago.

I'm very sad to hear this; I've still got a large library of DVD/CDs that I have no intention of getting rid of - many of the more recent ones with copy protection that makes ripping an image definitely more difficult than it should be. I also quite liked Optiarc drives; they were decently priced, surprisingly well featured and rarely had issues reading/writing discs (in my experience)...

...

Wonder how long it'll be before some music labels say it costs too much to produce CDs of their latest and greatest, and go digital only? 'Cause you can guarantee that they won't be providing it in lossless audio. :(
greypilgers 28th August 2012, 11:22 Quote
Whilst my digital download purchases outweigh my optical media purchases by at least 10 to 1, I still like the idea of the DVD Drive and being able to back up to disc, maintain that flexibility or even indulge in some gaming nostalgia from my back collection...

The steady march of progress, I suppose...
V3ctor 28th August 2012, 12:17 Quote
What will happen to my games in DVD and CD?
Time to create images of the games....
Saivert 28th August 2012, 13:22 Quote
Not surprised. Sony Optiarc has sold a lot less than manufacturers like Samsung and LG.
Possibly because of substandard quality. I had my last Sony Optiarc drive only about a year before it had to be replaced.
dr-strangelove 28th August 2012, 13:43 Quote
Can't say I'm happy to hear this, my own internet connection is only measured in the kilobits per second and I don't look forward to waiting ~10 hours for my games to download
mighty_pirate 28th August 2012, 14:07 Quote
Most of my music & games are digital. But I still rely on Bluray & DVD for all my film & TV & I archive a lot of stuff on DVD every few months.
mighty_pirate 28th August 2012, 14:09 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mighty_pirate
Most of my music & games are digital. But I still rely on Bluray & DVD for all my film & TV & I archive a lot of stuff on DVD every few months. It would be an awkward transition for me to dispose of optical media. As it would for most, I should think. I hope this isn't an omen of the soon abandonment of the medium.
mighty_pirate 28th August 2012, 14:12 Quote
Doh!
[USRF]Obiwan 28th August 2012, 14:13 Quote
Well that is at least 25 years faster hen the FDD.
Anfield 28th August 2012, 16:34 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Saivert
Not surprised. Sony Optiarc has sold a lot less than manufacturers like Samsung and LG.

Samsung doesn't make optical drives any more either, the drives sold as Samsung are made by a spin off / joint venture with a Toshiba spin off (TSST Corp).
schmidtbag 28th August 2012, 23:13 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by dr-strangelove
Can't say I'm happy to hear this, my own internet connection is only measured in the kilobits per second and I don't look forward to waiting ~10 hours for my games to download

Agreed, but just because Sony is dropping out of this market it doesn't mean all optical media and other hardware manufacturers will give up. DVD technology is still ridiculously cheap and overall reliable.

Blu ray should be much cheaper - AFAIK, Sony is pretty much the only reason it is so expensive. To give a really dumbed-down summary of blu ray vs DVD, it's just a blue laser (intead of a red one) with an additional lens. As for the discs, those are also pretty much structured the same as DVDs except I think they have an additional layer to them. Regardless, Blu Ray isn't worth over twice the price of DVDs.
enciem 29th August 2012, 08:19 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by V3ctor
What will happen to my games in DVD and CD?
Time to create images of the games....

Don't worry, they're not coming to take away your DVD drive, they're just not making them any more ;)
Griffter 29th August 2012, 10:31 Quote
how silly do pc's look without a dvd drive? its like it has no face. what a shame.
Gareth Halfacree 29th August 2012, 12:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Griffter
how silly do pc's look without a dvd drive? its like it has no face. what a shame.
This comment made me smile far more than it probably should. Applause!
schmidtbag 29th August 2012, 14:12 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Griffter
how silly do pc's look without a dvd drive? its like it has no face. what a shame.

This is actually a very important and good point to bring up, I thought about this myself a few months ago when realizing "hmm.... DVDs are starting to phase out". I'm beginning to realize that unless you have riser cards or a large water cooling system, full-towers are becoming less practical because nobody needs more than 1 optical drive and no desktop user needs more hard drives than the average mid-tower capacity. That being said, it is going to get more difficult to make the front of a computer look cool and practical.

One way I have accomplished this was I took my old crappy 900Mhz Celeron netbook, diassembled the entire thing, glued a GPU heatsink to it, cut 9" (diagonal) hole in the front of my tower, and mounted the screen to it. The motherboard rested in between the metal of the case and the back of the screen, with maybe 1 cm of extra space above the heatsink. Then I made a program that acted as a high-resolution hardware monitor that is multi-os compatible. To me anyway this put good use to all the empty space in front of my tower. Unfortunately after making some changes to the case, the backlight of the screen died.
Griffter 30th August 2012, 09:34 Quote
i just upgraded my pc about 2months ago. and i also was thinking, well i do have alot of cd/dvd's even tho i have to look where they are, but do i want a dvd drive. thats thought lasted 5sec. of cos. the dvd market is not dead yet. and u get more grief in not having a drive when u need one than not using a cheapie one.

plus i hope i can always buy my game boxes. u get twice the feeling of happiness for me. the first when u buy the game and hold it in ur hands and just admire the box and more often the fact that u finally have the game. and then the added joy of installing it the first time once home taking about 15min inputting the serial code just to make 100% sure u doing everything right for a good install. :-D

downloading for me has never given me that. IMHO
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