Blu-ray Drives in PCs? Fuggetaboutit

Blu-ray may have a future in the living room, but its prospects in the PC market appear bleak. A new study by market researcher iSuppli shows that only 3.6 percent of PCs this year will ship with Blu-ray high-definition optical drives, a figure that will rise to just 16.3 percent by 2013.

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Why the sluggish adoption rate? Michael Yang, an iSuppli senior analyst, says that consumers can’t find a compelling reason to pay extra for a Blu-ray drive, in part because of the anemic selection of Blu-ray movies.

Yang makes some valid points, and I doubt that Blu-ray drives will ever become standard equipment in consumer PCs, even after 2013. Consumer PCs, particularly notebooks and netbooks, simply don’t need Blu-ray. Here’s why:

HD movies are wasted on small laptop screens: Notebooks outsell desktops, and notebooks have relatively small screens. (A 17-inch display qualifies as a big-screen experience on a laptop.) Blu-ray’s HD brilliance is lost on a laptop screen. The format is best suited to a home theater setup with a 50-inch or larger HDTV.

Living room Blu-ray players are cheap: Some Blu-ray fans might argue that consumers could stream Blu-ray movies from their laptops to their big screen TVs. (An HDMI connection would work too.) Yes, they could, but they probably won’t. Most folks would rather spend $200 for a Blu-ray player for the living room.

Blu-ray isn’t a great backup drive: Blu-ray’s storage capacity may be impressive, but who wants to back up a massive hard drive to a stack of discs? It’s easier to buy an external hard drive, which is dirt cheap these days, or to use an online backup service.

Optical drives will soon be extinct: Quick, when’s the last time you used your DVD drive? Mine has sat idle for months. If I need to install software, I download the program. Shrink-wrapped apps are going away. The MacBook Air ditched the optical drive, and nearly all netbooks have too. I’m sure the users of those portables are fine with that. The DVD drive will soon go the way of the floppy. Fast forward to 2013, and most notebooks won’t have an optical drive at all. Improvements in broadband speeds will make movie downloading/streaming commonplace.

Blu-ray won’t vanish entirely, of course. But it’ll be little more than a niche peripheral that appeals to a small segment of the market.

Contact Jeff Bertolucci via Twitter (@jbertolucci) or at jbertolucci.blogspot.com.

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