The European Restriction of Hazardous Substances (ROHS) directive has proved to be a right pain for many manufacturers. Some companies have lost significant business as a result of being unable to bring new products out in Europe - a high profile one being Palm, which said it would stop shipping its Treo 650 in Europe as a result of ROHS.

What makes it worse is it's not just the hardware itself that's affected. Even the packaging is covered, and may have to be changed to comply with the regulations.

But the new rules have turned out to be unexpectedly useful for some. In particular, they can be a handy excuse for companies looking for to get rid of ageing or unprofitable product lines, without incurring as much wrath from loyal users.

An example is a recent big merger in the networked storage industry, which has left the merged company with two very overlapping product lines. Insiders say we should not be at surprised if one of those lines turns out to have ROHS problems - not insurmountable ones of course, but serious enough to warrant its withdrawal in favour of the new company's other product line.

For anyone who follows the