Death of the optical drive draws closer, as Sony pulls out
The future of the PC optical disc drive market is looking even more precarious after Sony announced it was closing its optical drive unit.
Reports in the Japanese media claim that Sony will wind up its Optiarc division by March of next year, as part of the enormous restructuring taking place at the loss-making Japanese firm.
The fact that only 400 people will lose their jobs reveals what a niche part of the PC business the optical drive has become.
Apple initially sounded the death knell for the optical drive by dropping it from flagship devices such as the MacBook Air and MacBook Pro, and its continued refusal to support Blu-ray.
The PC market is also veering away from optical drives, with the vast majority of Ultrabook laptops failing to offer an integrated Blu-ray or DVD drive. That trend is only likely to be accelerated with the advent of Windows 8 tablets, not least because the OS no longer natively supports DVD playback.
Sony’s withdrawal is a further blow for the beleaguered optical drive industry, which is already under investigation by the European Commission for price fixing.
The Commission claims that 13 optical drive makers colluded to fix prices ahead of bidding events organised by two major PC and server manufacturers. The Commission alleges that the price rigging had been going on for at least five years, and may have resulted in consumers and businesses paying more for their PC hardware.
The Commission has yet to identify any of the 13 optical drive manufacturers involved, but has the power to impose fines of up to 10% of each company’s worldwide turnover if found guilty.