After 30 Years, Is It Time to Bid Farewell to CDs?

Paul Lilly

Historians have a handful of dates to argue over and ultimately choose as to which represents the birth of the compact disc (CD), but for the sake of this article, we'll go with October 1, 1982.  It was exactly 30 years ago today that Billy Joel's 52nd Street became the first commercially available CD, which not coincidentally launched at the same time as the first commercial CD player, Sony's CDP-101. Over the years, music players and PCs would benefit from the introduction of the CD into the mainstream market, but is it time to move on?

Many already have. Hardly anyone carries around portable CD players anymore, which have long been replaced by digital music/media players. Tablets and smartphones, which also serve as digital repositories for album collections, further distance the average user from physical media. If that's the case, why do they still exists? Like everything else, it comes down to money.

In late 2011, Gartner predicted that consumer spending on physical music (CDs and LPs) would drop from $15 billion in 2010 to $10 billion in 2015. Despite the decline, that's still a lot of money, and more than the $7.7 billion Gartner predicted online music would account for in the next three years. At some point, the two will switch places.

"In the past 10 years, CD sales, the largest revenue stream for the industry, have eroded, while the online music revenue share is rapidly increasing," Gartner noted. "Digital downloads and streaming music services — referred to as subscription services — are the clear drivers in the online music industry for the coming years."

Released on October 1, 1982, Sony's CDP-101 was the first commercial CD player.

On the PC side, broadband Internet connections and cloud distribution services like Steam are fast replacing optical disc drives (ODDs), a trend that hasn't gone unnoticed by ODD makers. Sony, for instance, recently decided to pull the plug on ODD production and will stop producing drives for PCs next month. Heck, most Ultrabooks don't even ship with an ODD.

Are you still using CDs, either for music or to install applications on your PC? Let us know in the comments section below!

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