Audit trail dogs DVD+RW drive manufacturers

Yes, they did promise upgrades, say users

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Numerous readers have contacted us pointing out that we were overly kind to DVDR+W drive manufacturers yesterday when we said they didn't seem to have specifically advertised that their products would be upgradable to be able to write DVD+R media. Well actually, yes they did.

Packaging for the Philips DVDRW 208 specifically boasts that "this Ultimate [now presumably penultimate] recording solution also makes CD-RW and CD-R as well," and archives "up to 4.7GB on DVDR+W or DVD+R discs." The DVD+RW alliance also ran a FAQ on the subject up until September of last year, at which point it was "disappeared":

"Q10: How easy will it be for the consumer to incorporate DVD+R technology into their DVD+RW products?

"A10. The upgrade program interface will be intuitive and easy to use. With a few simple clicks, consumers will be able to add DVD+R capabilities to their DVD+RW drives. Philips and HP will make the DVD+R software upgrade DVD+available this fall."

This was not replaced until January of this year, when the following appeared:

"Q1. What's the truth, does DVD+RW offer write once capability or not? I've seen individual companies answer this differently.

"A1: The DVD+RW Alliance includes a specification for DVD+R. This is an extension of the DVD+RW format. This is a company-specific decision on the timing for products with write once capabilities. Current products do not provide this functionality, however, we anticipate that the majority of the DVD+RW products will offer write once capabilities in 2002."

DVDplusRW.org forum participant VideoMann also tells us: "Members of the DVDplusRW.org are willing to provide picture and other
written proof that indeed these first generation drives were sold to the public not only in the U.S. and U.K. but in a world market as being able to write to DVD+R discs. The HP websites for Spain, Ireland, and the Netherlands had such claims but were taken down as the company begun to change their position of what these drives were capable of doing."

HP itself published the 17th May 2001 press release on its own site, quoting VP and GM, personal storage solutions, John Spofford as saying: "With rewritable CD technology, consumers preferred a choice between rewritable discs and those that can be written only once, for permanent storage. "Given this, the DVD+RW Alliance will support a write-once DVD+R capability that allows consumers to safely archive their scanned documents, presentations, home videos, and photos."

Note that this alone doesn't specifically commit him to shipping a firmware upgrade for existing models, but as this release has now been deleted from the HP site, leaving only the headline in the index, you do kind of get the impression the company maybe thinks it has something to hide.

Although so far nobody seems to be offering any kind of formal upgrade or money back scheme, at least one member of DVDplusRW.org claims to have had a refund from HP, and the company apparently has a team manning the phones in the US (650-857- 7177) fielding calls from complainants. Dealing with persistent complainants on a case-by-case basis is of course going to be a lot cheaper and less embarrassing than having to deal with a mass recall, but we'd be the last to suggest that this is what's going on. Of course, any manufacturer who did say its product would be able to write DVD+Rs does not now have a leg to stand on. Our Philips packaging, by the way, was kindly forwarded to us by a TV producer who says he's waiting for the class action before he pulls the trigger - Philips, you have been warned. ®

Related stories:
DVD+RW drives in shock 'no upgrade' situation


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