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DVD+RW drives in shock ‘no upgrade’ situation

Er, we announced the impossible, apparently...

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Owners of DVD+RW drives who thought they'd be able to upgrade them to use cheaper write-once DVD+R media via a firmware upgrade are out of luck, and the DVD+RW Alliance would appear to have egg on its face. Manufacturers themselves don't seem to have specifically promised this upgrade, but it appears they did kind of hope it would be achievable, and their sales levels must inevitably have benefited from the widespread misconception that you'd be able to upgrade for free.

Well, you can't. Hardware changes are required, and anything you heard to the contrary was, er, wrong. One of the places you might have heard it was in the press releases section of the DVD+RW Alliance web site, where on May 17th last year it was claimed that "the addition of write-once (DVD+R) capabilities to rewritable DVD+RW products slated to be introduced this summer [i.e., last summer]" was achievable.

The release does not specify how this capability was to be achieved, but over at HP, home of the DVD100i, it says:

"Question: Is DVD+R media compatible with the HP DVD100i for recording purposes?

"Answer: No, HP has released the HP DVD100i with write-support for DVD+RW media only. Write-support for DVD+R media is neither planned nor technically feasible for the HP DVD100i model."

Weird or what? Apparently taking a slightly optimistic view of the typical consumer's memory capacity, the DVD+RW Alliance announced on March 14th 2002 that several members, Hewlett-Packard, Mitsubishi, Philips, Ricoh and Sony, were to ship combination DVD+RW/+R products." The Register would be the last to suggest that they might have been trying to tiptoe quietly away from what kind of looked like a previous commitment.

Users, however, are up in arms, and it seems likely the manufacturers will start to crumble before you can say Office of Fair Trading. Discussion threads at DVDPlusRW.org indicate that HP is to concede some form of upgrade/swapout/trade-in deal this week, possibly today. The nature of this deal, if it's actually going to happen, is not as yet clear, but if HP goes for it the other manufacturers will surely have to follow suit, no matter how costly it turns out to be. ®

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