Do we need Blu-ray drives?

Written by Simon Brew

February 28, 2012 // 7:54 a.m.

Tags: #blu-ray #blu-ray-3d #blu-raysonyplaystation-3dvdgamingmicrosoft #gaming #playstation-3 #sony

Price And Adoption

The problem of basic price is less of a problem than when Blu-ray first came around, at least in terms of the cost of a drive. But there’s more to it than that, of course.

After all, Blu-ray requires no shortage of system resources, not just to process the material on the disc, but to handle the demands of the inevitably bloated software required to play it back. That might be okay for people whose computers are powerful enough in the first place, but it hardly helps push Blu-ray towards the mainstream for PC use. And if not that many people are, consequently, interested in Blu-ray on the PC, then it stands to reason that most computers are selling with a DVD, rather than a Blu-ray, drive installed.

That, then, directly knocks on to take-up. Because how many day to day users have a computer that supports the format? Even Blu-ray writers, with the added data capacity, have struggled to take off as a result.

Do we need Blu-ray drives? Do we need Blu-ray drives? (Part 2)
PowerDVD 12: not shy on using up a few system resources...

After all, what’s the point of buying a Blu-ray writer and more expensive Blu-ray blank discs, if the people you know and work with can’t read them? Furthermore, isn’t it just more economical to buy a USB thumb drive instead? You can stick that into pretty much any computer and it’ll smile back at you.

Simply Not Necessary?
It might all be as simple as what pundits had been saying: the PC didn’t need a new optical disc format. Even though the promise of at least 25GB of storage space was tempting, the optical disc is simply being usurped by hard disk, and solid state, pricing. Granted, that’s reversed somewhat in recent times, but even now, a 1TB hard drive is a £75 investment (nearly twice the price of a year ago). An internal desktop Blu-ray reader (not writer) will set you back £40 at least, and then you’re buying blank discs at around 70p apiece. It just doesn’t seem that cost effective any more, and that’s before we take reliability into account.

Whether the long term future of the PC involves an optical disc format at all is debatable. It took a long, long time for the floppy disk to die, certainly, but a shiny disc, for all its tangible merits, simply isn't as necessary as it once was.

Blu-ray has found itself in an odd position. It’s garnered enough interest and sales to guarantee that it’ll be around for a good time to come (and it's comfortably cost Sony hundred upon hundreds of millions of dollars to get it that far), but not enough to make it compelling, or essential. New features, such as 3D support, seem, if anything, to add novelty value, rather than compelling reasons to buy a drive.

It thus seems one of the most easy to cut back on parts of a PC system build. And we never used to say that about DVD. In fact, we still don't...
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