Nope. No joke. DRM support is part of the specs. This does not mean, that any SATA drive is already "DRM-ready".
hat is it that has "DRM" built into it exactly?
There is an external SATA-HDD by Seagate designed for HDD video recorders. The DRM scheme used there should prevent users to connect the drive to another device. See http://www.heise.de/newsticker/meldung/58261 (sorry, german language)
The only thing that has anything that resembles DRM, TCPA or whatever you call it, right now, is some motherboard with some stupid TCP modules or something,
The only copyprotecting hardware things that are on the way for Vista right now that I can see is HDCP for encrypting display signals so you can't watch HD DVDs.
This seems to be the main application. But because the data stream has to be encrypted (and surveyed) totally, the drives (HDD and ODD) might be involved, too.
What would some "DRM"-chip be used for in a SATA dvd-writer exactly?
I don't know. Maybe they won't put DRM chips into DVD-drives, as they will be declared "outdated" when HDDVD and BR are common. I don't know what will happen.
HD-DVD and Blueray drives on the other hand, they will have nasty shit on them and some kind of drive identification numbers made to lock out pirated disks and all that stuff
For these drives use SATA interface, it is necessary that SATA is DRM compliant. And this is the only thing I said before.
Hopefully it will all be broken quickly, but if I was in their shoes I'd probably do something similar if I wanted to keep up my ridicilously high prices.
Your weapon is your and your friend's wallet. Just ignore their crippled stuff, that also includes downloads from the net. If there is no demand, they might think about that, hopefully.
Let us hope for cracked protection and cheap new media to write to.
I personally boycot "protected" content, and this also means, I won't try getting this using other sources, too.