CeBIT 2000: VHS is dead, hail DVD+RW: 1st public demo

The end of VHS is at hand, Justin Pearse saw the first demonstration of its probable successor at CeBIT in Hannover Friday

The first public demonstration of real-time recording and playback using the DVD+RW format -- hotly tipped to replace existing VHS technology -- took place at the CeBIT exhibition in Hannover Friday.

The six companies behind the standard, Sony, Yamaha, Philips, Ricoh, Hewlett-Packard and Matsushita, believe the demonstration, which focused heavily on the format's backwards compatibility with all existing DVD players, will establish the format over its nearest rival, DVD-RAM.

"We've seen how CD-RW can succeed by achieving compatibility with CD-ROM," says Takesh Matsui, corporate councillor for Ricoh products, "DVD+RW is the same story -- it can be played back in all existing [DVD] players."

The demonstration featured video content recorded on a DVD+RW prototype device from Ricoh. It then played back on a variety of DVD-Video players and DVD-ROM drives. The 4.7GB format is backwards compatible with the huge installed base of DVD-ROM drives and standalone players, a factor analysts agree is crucial in establishing consumer confidence.

Rob van Eijk, vice president strategic alliances optical products at Philips, rejected claims that DVD-RAM showed backward compatibility with existing media. "I'd invite any of you to put a DVD-RAM disk into any of these players to see if it works," challenged Van Eijk, "To our knowledge it definitely does not." Eijk forgot to mention that existing iterations of DVD--RAM are cartridge based and won't fit into a DVD player.

Of the six companies, only Philips would confirm a European deadline for a DVD+RW product. It expects a player by the end of the year.