The disc drive is dead

The disc drive, a technology that was born and flourished during the lifetime of many of our readers, is on its deathbed.

Microsoft has launched its first Xbox One without an optical disc drive, with gamers set to download titles – and potentially fully stream them in the future – when they want to play.

The move comes less than a month after Google announced that it would launch a streaming-only gaming service called Stadia.

The platform will allow users to game through the web without having to buy specific titles – much like Netflix lets you watch series and movies without the need to purchase content.

Adding to the woes of the disc in the gaming world is the proliferation of Steam for PC and PlayStation’s online store in recent years.

If you have a decent Internet connection and a big hard drive, buying a game on a disc is a thing of the past.

Steam and the PlayStation store offer tens of thousands of games for purchase and instant download, and their attractiveness is augmented by complementary functionality such as game reviews, linked add-ons and DLC, and an online community based around specific titles.

It is not only in the world of gaming where the disc is dying, however.

Samsung announced in February 2019 that it will no longer make new 4K Blu-ray or 1080p players for the US market.

“A high-end 4K player for 2019 along the lines of its UBD-M9500 was in the works, but has now been scrapped,” stated a report on the matter.

Netflix, Showmax, YouTube, and Amazon Prime, which offer vast libraries of content, have directly contributed to the downfall of the Blu-ray player.

No DVD for your laptop

Perhaps the most notable absence of the disc drive in 2019 is in modern laptops and desktops, though.

Known as the CD-ROM or DVD drive in PCs, the device is omitted by default by major manufacturers and is not a consideration for those building their own desktop machines.

The Apple MacBook Pro? No disc drive. The new Apple iMac? No disc drive. New Windows PCs from the likes of Acer, Dell, and ASUS? No disc drive.

Even modern gamers with large desktops, which have more than enough space to slot in a DVD-ROM, do not own disc drives.

The lack of demand for disc drives is confirmed when looking at the websites of online PC retailers, many of whom hide their “optical drive” section near the bottom of their page.

Online retailer Wootware confirmed to MyBroadband that the demand for disc drives in South Africa has fallen sharply in recent years.

“Even a small office of PC users may only need one external DVD drive, for if or when they have older software or data that needs to be accessed,” said Wootware.

Many new desktop PC cases do not even come with front-panel cut-outs for these drives, added the company.

Wootware attributed the drop in demand to cloud storage, streaming services, and digital downloads – which rendered the disc drive a “non-essential item”.

“Even USB flash drives are becoming less relevant for most people, since Internet speeds are fast enough to back up and share content to the cloud.”

It added that it does carry a small amount of disc drive stock, however, and that they receive regular orders for internal and external DVD drives.

“Most of our gaming PCs that we build do not have any optical drives in them. Office PCs would be more likely to have the drives.”

Online retailer Raru echoed this sentiment, stating that the sale of DVD writers and Blu-ray players is almost non-existent.

“It is safe to say that in the age of fast Internet, PC users have moved on from physical disc-based media. Most new notebooks also do not include DVD readers any more,” said Raru.

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The disc drive is dead