So the Compact Disc turns 25 today (the first commercial release was produced August 17th 1982). Itís pretty much de rigueur to cite the CDís imminent demise, but the bottom line is that there isnít actually anything in place to take its throne. As a physical format it still does a really decent job. Itís sturdy, high quality and cheap to manufacture. Crucially it has essentially universal interoperability and similar adoption. Its two key weaknesses in the current digitally focused market place are:
ē Form factor (itís too large for portability compared to MP3)
ē Interactivity. Consumers increasingly expect a more interactive experience with media. Though CDs are increasingly being packaged with added value content, that is essentially using the disc as a data storage unit for PC usage. Most CD interactivity does not work with most CD players.
Digital has failed to show any signs of supplanting the CD as the dominant recorded music format (see chart below). However, if the below chart was to be based upon consumption rather than purchasing then the inexorable rise of MP3 would be far more pronounced. Which further underlines the importance of the majors removing the restrictive shackles of DRM.
Another factor in the CDís favour is hardware: previous music format changes have happened because consumer electronic manufacturers created new devices that they wanted to push mainstream. That worked whilst home audio hi-fi was buoyant. Now the epicentre of home CE expenditure has shifted to the dual pull of the TV and the PC. Thus it is much more difficult for a new physical format to gain momentum because it is unlikely to be supported by a major thrust in adoption of the requisite home audio technology. Basically, the CD is safe until the digital arena finally gets its act together.
So happy birthday CD, youíve got a good few more years left in you yet, whatever people might say.