Sony to pull plug on floppy disks

Sony will no longer sell 3.5-inch floppy disks in Japan beginning in March 2011 due to dwindling sales and increased competition from newer storage media.

Sony has finally decided to stop making 3.5-inch floppy disks, according to international news reports.

The Japanese electronics giant has announced it will stop selling the 30-year-old storage format in Japan in March 2011 because of dwindling sales. It has already discontinued the discs in most international markets.

Sony has announced it will stop selling 3.5-inch floppy disks in Japan. ((Timothy Neesam/CBC))

Other storage media like USB keys and DVDs offer far more recording space than floppy disks — which typically contain less than two megabytes of memory — and are increasingly affordable.

A four-gigabyte USB key generally retails for less than $20 in Canada. A 10-pack of Sony 3.5-inch floppy disks, which altogether total less than 15 megabytes of memory, sells in central Tokyo for about $6 US, according to PC Magazine.

Apple stopped designing computers with standard floppy disk drives in 1998, and Dell followed suit in 2003.

Sony said in March it had stopped selling floppy disks in most of its international markets, with the exception of India and some other regions, Japan's Mainichi Daily News reported

Floppy disks are still commonly used in Japan, where Sony has 70 per cent of the market share. Companies sold about 12 million floppy disks in 2009, although that's a steep decline from 2002, when 47 million disks were purchased.


Changing technology: What older equipment do you still use?

Many of the remaining Japanese floppy disk customers are in the education and research sectors and use older computer equipment, according to PC Magazine.

Meanwhile, research company Global Industry Analysts predicts the USB market to reach over 568 million units by 2015.

The first floppy disks were developed by IBM in 1971 to help consumers save data, documents and pictures in a portable format. 

The eight-inch disks were made of flexible plastic, hence the "floppy" description.

Sony introduced the 3.5-inch floppy disk in 1981.