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 $99 to get the model with DVD+R capability added. Details are posted on HP's site (http://www.hp.com/support/dvd100i-trade-in). 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 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.