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Disc Makers Convince Themselves That Discs Are Here To Stay

from the short-run-vs.-long-term dept

Remember all that hype about the paperless office? The paperless home? Heck, even the paperless life! Well, so do some Sony executives who think the persistence of paper proves that Blu-Ray discs is here to stay. Speaking at an expo in Denver, Sony SVP Andy Parsons said, “I’m fond of recalling the old visions of the past that the paperless office would completely obliterate the need for paper. It seemed like a very reasonable, logical prediction decades ago that turned out to be completely wrong.” The only problem with this self-promotional position (besides the fact that recent research shows younger people aren’t interested in using paper) is that it ignores the many formats of information that have come and gone. Paper is unique in its ubiquity, but Sony should know all about formats which die; after all, they invented a couple. While discs may be around for a while due to existing infrastructure, the clear trajectory is towards digital only as evidenced by the swing towards net-centric devices like Apple’s MacBook Air, the iPhone and Dell’s new netbooks. As bandwidth and net-connected devices increase, shiny pieces of plastic will disappear (for everyone but the collectors) along with their tape-based predecessors.

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Comments on “Disc Makers Convince Themselves That Discs Are Here To Stay”

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Anonymous Coward says:


Paper is only still around because no-one ever got around to inventing something better. Paper provides persistence of information that is currently only bettered by engraving in stone or metal. It is also very good in regard to readability, providing a contrasting but non-radiant surface. It is quite likely that it’s use as a good written word material will soon be superceded by something like e-paper but it’s persistence is not going to become obsolete until we have some rather large advances in materials science.

Jared says:

Not so fast

Everyone talks about this completely digital future where discs are one of those “remember when…” items. I really think that this is farther out than many people think. We don’t have the internet infrastructure in place to be downloading high quality, especially HD, content. People who live in metropolitan areas take for granted the access to high bandwidth connections. True, broadband is becoming more and more available but it’s also expensive. To get a connection that make downloading an HD movie is just not affordable for some people, especially with the economy how it is. Also, there are some places where broadband simply isn’t available. What about those people? I live in Wisconsin and there are many rural areas with outlying homes that can’t get broadband at all.

On top of all this, there are the broadband providers actively fighting this idea with bandwidth caps and tiered pricing. If we start downloading lots of video content, we’re going to be consuming gigs and gigs of bandwidth a month. Since many of the providers are also cable companies, they don’t want this at all, unless they’re the ones providing the content.

I don’t think this digital future is going to happen soon. I think that Blu-Ray will be here for a while and perhaps even have a lifespan as long as DVD before being succeeded by digital or even a new disc or other physical medium.

Kevin C. says:

Maybe not round but they'll be around forever

Until broadband increases across the board, downloading a movie that is 1080p is very problematic. Depending on a third party to maintain my important data is scary, very scary. NPR recently had a show discussing the companies and indiviuals that store data in ‘the cloud’ and the data they lost when the company maintaining the data closed up shop. It could be a lack vision but I don’t see a day when everyone feels comfortable giving up the ability to maintain their own backup of important data. With regard to apps, movies, et al. Systems crash, hard drives fail. I know that anytime I buy an app and download it, I usually burn it as well. It’s harder for a CD or DVD to crash.
With regard to the net-centric devices like the Air. It makes them lighter and more engery efficient. I honestly belive a lot of that has to do with marketing and getting the battery life up, the weight down, and the thinness thined (thinified, thinerated…THINTASTIC!) It’s about the spec’s looking better than last years model.
It might not be round and shiny, it might not be flash but I can promise that there will always be a way to store your data to a removable, STATIC medium that can be put in a closet and forgotten about.

Shawn says:


Paper is unique in its ubiquity, but Sony should know all about formats which die; after all, they invented a couple.

anyone remember laserdisc. didn’t quite take off.

I can see us living a paperless life. I for one have a tablet pc which allows users to write directly on the screen and in their own handwriting. it makes it easier to jot things down and not need paper.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Nick

“Do not underestimate the bandwidth of driving your car to blockbuster”

Awh my gawd!!! People still do that?! I thought EVERYBODY knew that Blockbuster SUCKS because they’re f-ing Asshat criminals! Just Google it and decide for yourself.

Besides, NetFlix has never hounded me, harassed me, sued my dead mother in small claims court, sold her (and my) personal info., yada, yada. Ya better have an original death certificate.

Plus, I don’t burn a single drop of my gasoline with NetFlix. That alone makes Blockbuster suck.

Jonathan (user link) says:

Re: Re: Nick

“Plus, I don’t burn a single drop of my gasoline with NetFlix. That alone makes Blockbuster suck.”

Indirectly, you do (unless you exclusively use their online viewer). That disc didn’t put itself in your mailbox. I suspect that if you included all the fuel burned delivering Netflix DVDs to customers, Netflix would have a tremendous carbon footprint.

Pure digital downloads are far more environmentally friendly when compared to any physical media delivery system.

Anonymous Coward says:

Does he actually mean Blue-ray Disks or just digital media storage. If it’s the latter, then I understand, if the former, hogwash! “Paper” is a lose term that encompasses many written media, and written media as a whole is what never died. Blue-ray disks will surely succumb to a more compressed form of digital media. In terms of clay tablets, papyrus, wax tablets, parchment, etc. I’d say we’re somewhere in between the wax tablets and parchment equivalent era of digital media.

SmellyG says:

Its going to be a long wait.

Disks may be completely replaced in the future, but it’ll be a while yet. As other commenter’s have noted, the majority of broadband is not fast enough, and most film watchers don’t have the means to conveniently download and watch films.

On top of that, there’s the attachment to old formats. Like how Mike talks about the ‘experience’ of going to the cinema, there is a certain ‘experience’ attached to going to Blockbuster and renting a movie, or looking through your physical collection of disks to find something you want to watch.
I’m a product designer, and one of the things we have to take into account is the mental and physical interactions between the product and the user. Its one of the factors attributed to the rise in vinyl record sales; people enjoying the (technically impractical, but) interactive experience involved in playing a record on a deck.

I don’t think its a mistake by Sony to see a future in the Blu-Ray format. There’s still many years life left in physical media.

mac84 says:

A long wait for what?


“Disks may be completely replaced in the future, but it’ll be a while ” True. but that is not blue ray. Blue ray has not even gained any traction in the market yet. standard DVD format will be around for a while, due to their ubiquity, but blue-ray is too expensive to be ubiquitous yet. and the alternatives are becoming a lot more compelling every day.

“There is a certain ‘experience’ attached to going to Blockbuster and renting a movie, or looking through your physical collection of disks to find something you want to watch.” Yes but that experience is blown away once you browse your video collection as well as the whole video store on a device like appleTV. Yeah, I still have a friend that makes an ordeal out of playing a LP record, clean the record, clean the stylus carefully place the tone arm…. but that’s the lunatic fringe. Normal people will abandon the DVD in droves and probably never even sign on for the blue ray format.

SmellyG says:

Re: A long wait for what?

“True. but that is not blue ray.”
Agreed, Blu-Ray isnt exactly doing amazing. But I wasn’t specifically talking about Blu-Ray. The assumption that other forms of optical-based media are not going to die away soon gives Sony a good reason to put its money into promoting Blu-Ray.

“Normal people will abandon the DVD in droves and probably never even sign on for the blue ray format.”
Eventually, yes, but it will be a while until people completely turn away from physical formats. Until then, it is profitable for Sony to invest in a physical format that will appeal to the HD-loving market.

I don’t know about you, but I know people (my parents being 2 of them) who still use VCRs to record the TV. VCRs! How old is that?! Its because the is still a fair number of people who find it easier to have Physical objects to store data and press Physical buttons to record and play, rather than move through digital menus to access what they want.

Granted, things will change, and Sony is wrong to believe that disks are ‘like paper’ and it will stay around, but things aren’t going to fully switch to downloadable content overnight, in a year or in five years. Therefore there is a HD optical-disk market to be tapped into, and that is what Sony is doing.

dkp says:

paper no more

What is really interesting about the statement about paper is that sony is making one of the products that if done correctly could replace paper and that is there book reader. note some changes would have to be made to make it compatible with more formats also this will take around twenty years because corporations can’t think outside a way to make the most money.

Overcast says:

Disks may be completely replaced in the future, but it’ll be a while yet. As other commenter’s have noted, the majority of broadband is not fast enough, and most film watchers don’t have the means to conveniently download and watch films.

No, but flash drives offer quite a bit of flexibility; without the hassles of a CD. A flash drive can’t get scratched, and is immune to many other types of damage a CD’s isn’t immune too. The only type of damage a CD would come out better in the end is against being dropped in a liquid. Even if you drop a CD and Flash drive down the steps, the chances are much better that the flash drive will survive.

Plus, flash memory can have a much, much larger storage capacity than a DVD.

I’d say you could run to blockbuster and copy a ‘rental’ movie to it, but it would still be faster to get it from the web; but heck – that’s an option too. Run to blockbuster, rent 5 movies, put them all on the same flash drive – they could even ‘expire’ at a certain point – 5 days or whatever; and you wouldn’t even have to return the DVD.

For the prices they charge for CD’s and DVD’s, – well, they should start providing the media on Flash instead of CD or DVD. Heck, you can get a 1GB flash drive for $5 now, on occasion – $8 at the most…

SmellyG says:

Re: Re:

“Plus, flash memory can have a much, much larger storage capacity than a DVD.”
Flash drives are more robust and convenient, and they have more space than a DVD.

But have you seen the development in 16 layer Blu-ray disks? 400GB, and a 500GB is apparently possible.

By no means am i saying these will work/be used/be actually bought by people for films, but don’t think flash drives are the only ones with big storage.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

To add, flash memory becomes exponentially expensive. 10 ~4gig DVDs are 18 bucks. A 4gig flash drive is 15 bucks. Thats just a quick glance at prices, I’m sure they vary, especially with quality and quantity. Yes, a flash drive can be re-used, but I want to grab the movie I want to watch and then watch it. I don’t want to boot up my computer, start copying it, and in total, about 10-15 minutes later I can watch my movie. The problem that all of you are suffering from is that you all think everybody watches movies on their computer, have their computer hooked up to their tvs, or have their computer running all the time, or even have computers capable of storing vast movie libraries. Not counting my HD content, I have well over a terabyte of content.

People aren’t as attached to their computers as the average reader of this website is. *WE* don’t dictate the marketplace, the *GENERAL* population does. As it stands, they aren’t taking up living off their computers as quickly as we as a niche market are.

Travis says:

“That disc didn’t put itself in your mailbox. I suspect that if you included all the fuel burned delivering Netflix DVDs to customers, Netflix would have a tremendous carbon footprint.”

Actually, not true. Netflix media is delivered by the USPS, who is already coming to my house (and my neighbor’s,etc.) with or without Netflix. There may be some fuel cost in transporting the discs from wherever they are stored to a USPS center, but not an excessive amount. So in truth Netflix has an effective ‘carbon footprint’ of near zero.

Errant Garnish (profile) says:

Re: No free rides

Sorry, Travis. You’ve just described the “free rider syndrome.”

Physics lesson: the energy required to move an object, such as a postal truck, is a function of the mass (accelerating the mass to velocity, plus overcoming internal friction to sustain the velocity, which is largely a function of weight — I am disregarding air resistance which is more complex). Bottom line: If you increase the mass, you increase the energy requirement.

Technically, to operate a single postal vehicle with one 15 gram DVD in it requires slightly more fuel than to operate one without a DVD in it, although it would be such a ridiculously small amount of fuel that it would not even be worth calculating. And yes, it is a MUCH more efficient means of transporting DVDs than devoting a single car trip to Blockbuster with each pickup or return. Netflix has a much smaller carbon footprint than Blockbuster in that regard.

When you consider the scale of Netflix, however, the footprint is not insignificant. According to company and postal service research, Netflix received almost half a billion disc returns a year back from its customers. If you consider that each of those discs was also shipped to the customer, that is nearly a billion discs moving through the mail between a Netflix customer and a warehouse each year.

At 15 grams each, this annual movement of DVDs weighs well over 30 million pounds. What is the incremental carbon footprint of shipping 30 million pounds of freight in a year? Honestly, I don’t know, but I am confident that it is a lot more than zero. And I suspect that it is a lot more than the incremental carbon footprint of shipping the same information in the form of “bits” over fiber or copper.


Overcast says:

What is really interesting about the statement about paper is that sony is making one of the products that if done correctly could replace paper and that is there book reader

Personally, if I have to read documents for any *length* of time – I print them, usually. Staying focused on the monitor for a length of time doesn’t seem to do any justice to my eyes or neck… But then, that’s purely a personal preference.

Paper’s no big deal anyway, it’s no different than a tree falling in the woods and then decomposing; mostly. Compared with Plastic it’s far less of an environmental impact, at least it reverts to a ‘natural’ form rather quickly.

I never did understand the ‘use plastic bags’ to ‘lessen the impact on the environment’ thing years ago when plastic became popular at the grocery stores – the people pushing for it were like a bunch of psychotic paper nazi’s. Now the same ones are complaining about plastic bags, saying we should use paper or some kinda tote…. They can stick it, if you wanna be friendly to the environment, paper’s a much better option.

Of course…. plastic’s awful convenient 😉

Steve (profile) says:

Look back at this thread in 3 years

…and laugh about how we assumed moving digital media was a good idea. We must make this small plastic thing and spin it very fast and read the tiny bits with a laser that is expensive to manufacture. And, oh yeah, all of its readable surface has to be exposed and subject to scratching.

If that’s the best we can do in our lives and even the near term, we all need to climb back up the trees.

With Amazon Unbox built into TiVos, XBox Live Marketplace built into 360s, and whatever Sony does or doesn’t do on their shiny black net loss generator, how long do we really expect Netflix to compete using the post office?

Delivery will be digitized faster than the marketing departments of disc makers want. Why else would Sony be up on stage reprogramming the Wal-Martians to buy Soylent Blu? We may not be streaming down 1080p on demand any time soon, but we might be watching 1080p that is downloaded in some delayed means within a year. Overnight off-hours, longer than typical buffering times, etc…

Storage and playback are well on their way to solid state. MP3 players, the latest generation of computer mass storage devices, everything Sandisk and competitors make plus everything that uses flash. Doesn’t an 8 soon to be 16 gigabyte micro SD card provide evidence of feasible terabyte solid state storage within two years?

The storage industry is already talking about jumping right past exa to petabyte consumer storage once the solid state leap ramps down to mass market.

Even though I’m an optimist and I live where technology is available and advancing at pace with development, I admit many of the comments from contributors above my post are accurate. I still see VHS tapes in closeout stores.

We’re going to see discs as an entertainment delivery media for decades. This is especially true when the exclusive holder of a disc media license also owns a massive segment of the software. Even if Blockbuster wanted to allow customers to dock their iPod 12th generation devices and download their purchases at the store, could they? Would Sony’s ownership of the titles that Blockbuster relies on to exist influence them to perpetuate disc-based movies to support Sony brand and Sony license hardware sales?

The internet infrastructure to support 1080p download only makes sense in the major metro markets. For a long time, the podunks will get movies at retail even though they already get their music at iTunes, or an equivalent if they dare to think.

Discs for archival storage will fade to using solid state and network-based backup. I think many of us who read Techdirt already have gigs of valuable property stored on solid state devices. As the internet moves from the office to the couch, many more of us will subscribe to services that retain copies of information to which we own digital rights as either buyers or creators. Pictures of my son from birth are stored on three different kinds of media and backed up in the cloud just in case my house becomes debris.

Last, please, I know we’re all good people and we do what we’re told. We’ve been told to buy Blu-ray and we will until people with more money and media control come out with something doubleplusgood.

Kent says:

Oh discs

The only reason I still have a CD binder in my car is because, as far as I’m aware, there is no in-dash head units on the market that will play my FLAC files from a USB hard drive. I have over 200 gigs of backed up CDs and I’d like to be able to do something with the data besides letting it sit there. Android will be great, but who’s gonna make an open source car stereo so I can install my codecs? I’ll chip in to the development.

drbuzz0 (user link) says:

Here for a while..

I have no doubt that optical disc formats will be here for a long time to come. Not forever, no, but for a while. Lets not forget something, although LP’s may not be around much anymore phonographic disks were the primary means of storing music for nearly a century. Compact disks became popular in the 1980’s and remain a very popular storage format. DVD’s and DVD-R formats are still very much alive as well.

Yes, as time goes on solid state memory like flash will become cheaper and faster and will eventually compete directly with optical disks and eventually it may replace them. That won’t happen tomorrow or next year. There are advantages to optical media for occasions where you want to distribute content directly. They’re much cheaper to make in large amounts for distribution. If you want to back something up or to give large amounts of data to someone, they’re also much much cheaper and generally better than something like flash and will be that way for at least a few more years.

For many circumstances, physical distribution of media remains a good choice because we have not reached the point where everyone has a super-fast internet connection and we can just send multiple gigabytes of data in a few minutes. that will also take a while.

“Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway.”
-Andrew Tanenbaum

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: price

RAM is inherently volatile. It essentially stores information through electricity, therefore, when the power goes off, so does the information. Non-volatile ram would require constant power. Think of every bit as a little light bulb. It stores information by turning on the correct bulbs. It requires constant energy to keep them on. This type of energy requirement is unreliable and inefficient.

Therefore, non-volatile ram is relatively impossible with our technology. It may happen in the future, but it is *not* going to be the next step nor the next few steps.

Yakko Warner says:

I hope not.

When I rent a shiny disc from the local video rental shack, or buy one from the local mega-mart, (or presumably have one delivered in a red envelope,) or buy a used copy off of eBay, I can put that disc in my family room DVD player, in the bedroom DVD player, in my computer, or even take it to the DVD player in the minivan so the kids can watch it while we drive out to see Grandma.

I can also take it to a friend’s house and watch it on his projection TV. Or I can loan it to him, and he can watch it how/when/where he wants. Or I can re-sell the thing on eBay when I’m done with it.

Same goes for video games distributed on disc (except, of course, the hardware is a little more specialized as opposed to just any ol’ generic DVD player).

I have yet to see any solution that is as simple and as portable as a shiny disc.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: I hope not.

Lets have a race. We’ll see who can start a movie first. Ready go.

Me: grab movie, open box, put in player, hit play.
You: turn on computer, wait for computer to boot up, find file, start copying to flash drive, wait for copying to complete, remove flash drive and put in player, hit play.

Winner by a huge margin: Me.

How about another situation:
(someone else): “Hey, we’re heading over to so-and-so’s house, bring a movie.”
(you/me): “What movie?”
(someone else): “I dunno, grab a bunch.”

Me: “Ok. I’ll be down in a minute and we can leave.”
You: “Ok. I’ll be down in about 20 minutes or so, then we can leave.”

Shiny discs are for people who understand that various formats have various advantages and there exists no format with a superior advantage in all cases. People who use only usb drives are for people who don’t understand these concepts. Please refrain from calling other folks noobs when you can’t even understand a situation as clearly as this. I thought of two counter examples to your argument, all of the top of my head, in approximately 5 seconds. You probably aren’t known for your critical thinking skills, are you?

Sheree says:

Anything you can do, we can do better!

Has everyone forgotten which company we’re talking about here?

You make a VHS player, we make a BetaMax player.
You make 1.2MB floppy disks, we make 1.44MB floppy disks.
You make CDs, we make MiniDiscs.
You make dot mask CRTs, we make Trinitrons.
You make analog audio connectors, we make S/PDIF.
You make Secure Digital media, we make Memory Sticks.
You make DVD-R, we make DVD+R.
You make HD-DVD, we make Blu-Ray.

Maybe Blu-Ray will be the Next Big Thing… And maybe it won’t. Sony doesn’t exactly bat 1000 where it comes to getting people on their proprietary format bandwagon.

Twinrova says:

The DVD may die, but it's not going to be for a long time.

Given how technology is today (despite not being at 100%, but even TV ownership isn’t 100%), I don’t see the disk going away for a long, long time.

Why? Idiotic executives who believe anything posted online will be stolen and thus, their revenues will deplete. DVDs are a remarkable profit mongering avenue for any company willing to produce them. They cost little to produce and reap in huge revenue.

In taking a look at the “interwebs + distributable media” today, the first thing I have to ask myself is why the major networks don’t have “On Demand” services. Instead, these companies would rather you go to their website or watch their ad-infused shows on TV totally ignoring the potential of TV watchers who would love to watch their show on their schedule.

Internet downloads of videos isn’t as strong as you all think they are. Studies mentioned here on this site often omit studies done which show how many people are reinitializing the download due to lost connection/download delays (etc) or simply to “check it out” (thus, never returning).

I don’t dispute the digital world will eventually be this unseen server, but I think the writers of Techdirt tend to forget the very blogs they post about how everyone who owns IP gets upset it’s “on the web”.

goat says:

Disks die when I do

Platters may die when the restrictions on digital files is not a problem. I can play a DVD anywhere without “authorizing” it, even my Linux machines with the “illegal” (pah!!!) codecs. I can rip a DVD to any format, for any device without hassle. Once digital downloads provide this exact functionality (re: like bitorrent)I’ll think about it.

iTunes, the new Napster, the now-dead Amazon Unbox… great examples of the DRM joke.

The prices are nothing to smile about either. Ten dollars for a DVD and I get all the flexibilty I require. Downloads don’t, and they’re priced the same or more. Ick.

Anonymous Jerk says:

Discs are here to stay, for now...

Discs will definitely be around for a while, and yes, possibly forever (after all, turnaround time in the electronics world is highly accelerated :-), but blu ray will eventually be surpassed by something that is cheaper, more durable, and has a much higher capacity. The human eye has an almost infinite ability to perceive resolution, and until we pass the threshold of the pixel size we can actually see, we will continue to invent higher-res tv’s and computer screens, meaning we will need something that can paint an image on those screens.

Jim says:

The Non-Death of Paper

In grad school I had a professor who was very hot on the paperless office. That was over twenty years ago and I still see paper all around my office. Besides the usual reasons (readability, portability, no format hassles) I think there is one very big reason that all our digital tools have not made paper obsolete. All those tools have actually made paper a better technology. Useful, creative paper (content, graphics, etc) is even easier and faster to create because of our digital tools. I can take / create digital content and manipulate it almost any way I want. When I’m done I can print it out and use it as I please. Or I can send my digital content to someone halfway around the world and they can print it and use as they want. Digital tools have leveraged all the things that made paper a great technology before and made it even better.

hegemon13 says:

No better invention

Paper has continued because there has been no better invention to replace it. It is cheap to produce, has an extremely long life (compared to electronics of any kind), requires no power, and can be easily copied for preservation if necessary.

I think Mike had a post a year or more ago where he challenged people to imagine if paper were invented today as an alternative to electronic devices. Given all the above features, it would stomp them. Just because it is an old invention does not mean it is not valuable. Kind of like analog vs. digital clocks. One offers, effectively, a pie chart that quickly represents that time of day as visual sections of time. The other offers a row of numbers. When technology is used to create a solution where there isn’t a problem, it will fail to replace what is “old hat.”

No question about it, discs WILL be replaced because replacing them with downloads solves problems of distribution and convenience without weakening or downgrading the product itself.

:j says:

"younger people aren't interested in using paper"

I’m 24, I don’t use paper except to jot down information I’ll later enter somewhere digitally. (I will lose track of paper otherwise) I don’t even draw/sketch on paper anymore. It’s to the point where I can’t write in cursive, and I don’t care. Paintbrush? Ink pen? Charcoal? No, wacom.
Pen pal? Love letter? Email, text messages.
Mix tape? Flash drive. I can understand the nostalgia, but long live the digital.

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