When it comes to choosing optical drives for custom desktop and notebook computers, a system builder's first criteria is reliability.
"The optical drive is one of the components going into a computer that has moving parts. Most of the systems we do we offer with a five-year warranty, so as you can imagine the chances for an optical drive to go bad is even higher than something like memory or a CPU which don't have moving parts," said Michael Chang, president of Houston-based solution provider Prime Systems.
"There's a mechanical mechanism for the end user to interact with the drive because the bay comes in and out. Its fairly easy to get damaged, so we try to be very careful in terms of selecting the best quality parts," Chang said.
Chang first turns to market-leader Sony Electronics Inc., San Diego, when choosing drives for his products and that the company's drives have consistently had low failure rates over the years.
"We offer as much selection as we can. Sony traditionally has been one of the better performing brands in the space. Sony typically is a little bit higher on price, so if we're building a system where the user is sensitive on price we may or may not choose Sony," he said.
According to the NPD Group's Distributor Track, Sony had the highest sales through distribution in both 2006 and 2007, garnering 12.9 percent of the market last year. Panasonic as the fastest growing, gaining 3.3 percent in market share to come in as the second best-selling vendor. IBM, Hewlett Packard and Teac round out the top five.
Robert DeMoulin, marketing manager for Sony Electronics' optical storage division, based in San Jose, Calif.
"Sony has been a leader in this space largely because our DVD/CD drives are consistently rated among the highest in performance and our drives are engineered for better media compatibility and longer life. The result is higher customer satisfaction for the system builders and lower support costs," he said.
The market is moving toward using SATA interfaces instead of the traditional EIDE because they provide better cooling at a lower cost in desktop PCs, he said. "Additionally, the trend to offer Blu-ray Disc BD-ROM and Combo drives on mid/higher-end systems is increasing as builders are looking for ways to prop up eroding margins."
In 2008 Sony is expanding the product portfolio it offers to system builders to add more SATA and EIDE interface drives, as well as more high-definition products, such as Blu-ray BD-ROM drives and BD Writers, DeMoulin said.