DVD+RW drive upgrades: Philips says free, HP says $$$

Both technically feasible and not technically feasible, apparently

In the great DVD+RW upgrade scandal, Philips may be poised to emerge as the hero and HP the villain. HP has quietly (or at least, as quietly as it can) announced a time-, geography- and product-limited $99 upgrade offer, while over at DVDplusRW.org there's a report (which we're trying to confirm with Philips) that the company will release a free firmware upgrade disc for its DVDR1000 and DVDR1500 this month.

Both manufacturers have been more than slightly skewered by suggestions by the DVD+RW Alliance last year that the first DVD+RW drives would be able to write DVD+R discs as well via a simple upgrade. Manufacturers ran with this promise to varying extents, and although ill-advised claims have now largely disappeared from web sites, DVDplusRW.org claims to have numerous books of clippings to throw at them.

Until now the truth appeared to be that they'd thought it would be possible to upgrade the drives via firmware, but that this had turned out not to be possible, hence HP's claim now that writing DVD+R with its DVD100i is not "technically feasible." But if Philips is offering a firmware upgrade, then clearly it is technically feasible for that company's hardware, and Philips will have secured itself a 'get out of jail free,' marred only slightly by the ominous silence on the subject over the past few months.

HP on the other hand... Oh dear, oh dear. It may actually be possible to find the upgrade offer on the HP site without already knowing where it is, but we couldn't. For your information, it's here. HP is offering a trade-in for $99 in the US and Canada, available from 1st May to 30th June 2002. For this you will get a "a DVD Writer drive with DVD+R capability added," but it's not specified whether this is a refurb of the 100i or a new 200i. You'll also get upgraded app software and (somebody at HP has a weird sense of humour) one blank DVD+R disc.

The offer, according to a thread at DVDplusRW.org, does mean a new 200i, but does not apply to OEM drives, only to retail bundles. The fact that HP says that upgrades for regions outside the US and Canada are "currently under consideration" may however be good news. Rather than it being the case that HP is treating non-North American users as second class citizens, it's quite possibly trying to figure out how to placate users at minimimum cost without getting whacked by local consumer legislation. Whether the current offer is enough to stop it getting whacked on that side of the pond remains to be seen.

According to the DVDplusRW.org report, all Philips DVDR1000 and DVDR1500 drives built from March 2002 onwards have the upgrade already, so provided you check this with the store, it should be safe to buy them. Further information about new features that come with the upgrade can be found here. ®

Related stories:
Audit trail dogs DVD+RW drive manufacturers
DVD+RW drives in shock 'no upgrade' situation

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