HP restores DVD writer upgrade offer

Hewlett-Packard has quietly launched an upgrade program for owners of its HP DVD Writer dvd100i, restoring its offer to let them move up to a drive that supports both its initial DVD+RW (rewritable) format discs and the cheaper DVD+R (recordable) media.

HP's DVD Writer dvd100i, introduced last fall, is being supplanted by the pending release in April of the DVD Writer dvd200i, a more capable model that supports both formats. Consumers cried foul when HP said at the introduction of the new drive in March that an upgrade path would not be available.

Customers pointed out that early marketing materials touted the first-generation DVD+RW drives from HP would be easily upgradable to include support for less-expensive write-once +R media.

Now HP's change of policy is also being reversed. Owners who purchased their HP DVD Writer dvd100i drives before May 1, 2002 can get the new DVD+R feature for two months. They need to return their original drive, with a proof of purchase, between May 1 and June 30, and pay US$99 to get the model with DVD+R capability added. Details are posted on HP's site. List price of the dvd100i is $500, but current street prices average $360.

The DVD Writer dvd200i will have an estimated street price of $499, according to HP. An external model, the HP DVD Writer dvd200e drive, is expected to ship in May at an estimated street price of $599.

Competitors cautious

Competitors are scrutinizing HP's switch, while not making any commitments of their own.

"Sony never made any claims to its customers about the upgradability of the DVD+RW drive for DVD+R. We know better than to say anything before it's finalized," said Robert DeMoulin, marketing manager for the disc storage products division at Sony.

At this time, DeMoulin added, "We're not ready to talk about anything" that Sony may or may not do to help consumers transition from the first-generation drives to the newer drives that integrate DVD+R support. Sony's DVD+R/+RW models won't be in stores for another five weeks, according to the company.

Last week, before HP's announcement, representatives from Philips said the company is adopting a wait-and-see approach regarding the upgrade issue and indicated they will evaluate customer requests on a case-by-case basis. Philips' DVD+R/+RW drive, the DVDRW228, is now due to ship in early June.

Product specs

The HP DVD Writer dvd100i and dvd200i are sold individually, but are also used in some HP PCs. The dvd100i is integrated into certain models of HP Pavilion desktops.

Like the DVD-R discs (which are part of the DVD-RW spec), the write-once +R discs should exhibit greater compatibility with existing DVD-ROM drives and DVD players.

The HP DVD Writer dvd200i will come with a one-year limited warranty and a blank DVD+R disc. It will also ship with software upgrades including ArcSoft ShowBiz video editor, new versions of Sonic's MyDVD, Veritas HP DLA and HP RecordNow, and Cyberlink's Power DVD.

DVD-RW media costs about $18, while discs for DVD+R are priced lower. HP already markets DVD+RW discs at an estimated street price of $11, and will release HP DVD+R discs in April along with the dvd200i at an estimated street price of $6.

According to HP, the drives can record DVD movies that can be viewed on a typical home DVD player and store up to 4.7GB of data. The dvd100i records in the DVD format at 2.4X speed and reads at 8X speed. Maximum CD-R writing speed is 12X, rewriting 10X, and reading 32X, according to HP.

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