The market for optical drives is really tough, as it is defined by tremendous quantities at very high cost pressure. Simple DVD drives don’t cost more than a few dollars, and even a decent DVD burner can be purchased for less than $40. At the same time, every new PC or notebook comes with at least one optical drives, so the amount of optical drives always equals the amount of systems sold plus x, where x stands for enthusiast users who want dedicated devices for reading and writing discs, or those who adopt new technology such as Blu-ray rather early. We are talking about 90 million systems only for Europe in 2007 (SonyNEC Optiarc numbers). Clearly, talking about modifying components, the production other items within the supply chain makes a great difference for these guys, even if we’re only talking about few cents per drive.
But there is light on the horizon for the industry: With the victory of Blu-ray over the HD DVD, the standard for the future is now set. However, the real breakthrough hasn’t happened yet, and SonyNEC Optiarc believes that it won’t happen this year despite the fact that Verbatim promised to increase production capacity for BD recordables, and despite the mobile market showing more traction on Blu-ray reading, DVD-writing combo drives than the desktop market. In the past it used to be the other way. This development is probably the case because many users prefer to invest some more money into a decent laptop in order to make it future-proof, as it cannot be upgraded as easily as a desktop PC. One reason for the long adoption time could be the slow transition to HD television and video in Europe, which obviously requires the high-capacity Blu-ray media. Asia/Pacific and Northamerica are years ahead when it comes to watching HD or even FullHD video content.
Still, prices have to drop – and according to SonyNEC Optiarc, they will drop. The firm expects Blu-ray combo drives, which can read BDs and write all sorts of DVDs, to reach the $100 line before the Holiday season. Add another $50, and you’ll have the prices SonyNEC Optiarc estimated for slim-line notebook drives. Burners could go for $150-200 then. SonyNEC Optiarc has been more expensive than the competitors from Korea, namely LG and Samsung, as it says it maintains a higher quality level and does not want to enter a price war in which no one makes money anymore.