Blu-ray PC’s Feeling Blue

They were touted as the next big thing on the ‘optical drive’ horizon, but in spite of falling prices, increasing sales of Blu-Ray players, and a fast-expanding library of movie titles with high quality video and audio, Blu-Ray Drives (BDs) for PCs are yet to find their place in the sun, say the experts at iSuppli Corp.

With so many things going right for Blu-Ray, the proportion of BDs being shipped with PCs will only increase moderately to about 16.3% of all PCs shipped in 2013, as compared to 3.6 % in 2009.

This can be inferred from a statement by Michael Yang, senior analyst for storage and mobile memory at iSuppli Corp. “BDs won’t be replacing DVDs as the primary optical drive in PC systems through at least the year 2013,” he says. Though he’s generally optimistic about the fate of Blu-Ray technology,“…during the next five years, that success will be limited in the PC segment…”, which means slow times for BDs. Yang points out three factors that have contributed to the crawling pace of Blu-Ray Drive sales – the cost of BDs, and the much smaller size of the library of Blu-Ray movies, and the smaller screens and lower-quality speakers of PCs (desktops and laptops) which can’t really display the difference of Blu-Ray quality.


The main barrier to speedy adoption of BDs, according to Yang, is the cost. Since the BD is still much more expensive than the existing DVD standard, most consumers really don’t see the point in shelling out extra cash for high-definition. Moreover, Yang says, the smaller library of Blu-Ray movie titles makes the cost look higher, and thus, users don’t feel the need to change over. The situation might be improving, with studios releasing more and more Blu-Ray titles by the day, but it’ll be a long hard day at work before Blu-Ray has a comparable library of titles.

Fighting History

Another major issue for the upcoming BD is that it has to displace the current leader in the optical drive arena, in order to become the next standard. The DVD-RW drive has had a strong standing, and has been widely accepted.

Historically, at any given point of time, the leader, or rather, the de facto standard of the storage medium industry only attained that position once customers were convinced that it was convenient and value for money, and when enough media (read movies, software and music) were available in the new format.

To take the example of the CD-ROM, which preceded the DVD-RW drive, it was only when files, music and software became sizeable, and PC hard drives exceeded established capacities, that it was able to break the 3.5” floppy drive’s stranglehold on the market, simply because CD-ROMs and CD-ROM drives were reasonably priced, and could hold a lot more data; hence, they were being used as the preferred medium for larger games, movies and music. The floppy was outwitted by its own size of 1.44MB which couldn’t hold a decent game, a song or a movie. This was a moment of truth where people switched, not for merely better quality, but for a better overall product.

And this is precisely the moment of truth, Yang notes, that has yet to arrive for the Blu-Ray Drive. Yang has no doubt that the BD delivers on all counts – be it great quality in audio and video, or unbeatable storage capacity for home entertainment – but these advantages, though great for plasma screens, high-performance speakers and consumer Blu-Ray players, “may have little or no value when viewing the content on a smaller desktop or laptop PC screen and using poor speakers.”