Are Optical Drives Obsolete?

Optical disc drives (ODD), otherwise known as CD and DVD drives, may be going the way of the cassette tape, floppy disk, and the Zip drive. One common trait shared by most netbooks, tablet computers, mobile phones, ultra-low-cost PCs, and other small form computing devices is a lack of physical media required to operate. Where a new PC might come with a set of restore media, many of them are now being shipped with a hidden partition on the hard drive that contains everything your system needs to be restored to factory settings. This begs the question, are optical drives obsolete?

Content that has been traditionally distributed in a physical form is finding its way to digital download services allowing users to make purchases without leaving their home or waiting for a delivery. With a click of a button, you can save yourself a trip to the store and all the hassle that comes with it. While you can still purchase the vast majority of your music, movies, and games at a local retail store, the chances of distribution through physical media keeping its current pace in the next few years is slim.

Game consoles have almost always been known for having tradable, tangible cartridges or discs that contained the games with only a small amount of storage tied to the actual device for the purpose of keeping saved games. In fact, a major battle in the war between the two emerging optical drive technologies was fought between Microsoft’s Xbox and Sony’s PlayStation. Today, they are both linked to online stores that allow the user to purchase games and download them directly to the console with no disc required.

As this trend continues, it’s unlikely that optical drives will be included on game consoles at all. The cost of distribution from the cloud is much lower that it is in retail stores. While it may be too early to say for certain that the optical drive is absolutely dead, it is certainly showing all the early warning signs of a technology that is past its prime.