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TK's MORNING BUZZ: Why Is JVC Launching Digital VHS in the U.S. Later This Year...When the Format Won't Fly?

18 Jan, 2001 By: Thomas K. Arnold

It's hard to believe VHS developer JVC is actually going ahead with plans to launch Digital VHS in the United States later this year. Despite JVC's insistence that it has the software support of several Hollywood studios, I really can't see the format fly.

We're in the midst of one format acceleration, DVD. There simply isn't room for two.

Not only that, but I have my problems with tape in general. I have always felt that tape is an imperfect medium, a means to an end, and that with DVD on the video side -- just as with the CD, and now DVD-Audio, on the audio side -- tape will ultimately be replaced by something better, something more permanent, something hardier and tougher.

We saw it happen on the audio side. Tape arose to complement, but never fully supplant, the vinyl LP. Tape was portable, while the vinyl LP wasn't. Tape was recordable, while the vinyl LP wasn't. But the vinyl LP lasted through the 8-track years, through the audiocassette years, and despite its imperfections never lost dominance.

Only when the CD came around did the vinyl LP disappear. In the meantime, the brief but furious 8-track boom had collapsed, and the audiocassette was still playing second fiddle. It took the CD to finally tackle the LP, a disc for a disc, so to speak.

With packaged movies, it's a little different. There, tape was the dominant format for many years -- even to the point of successfully staving off an assault by one disc format (the 12-inch laserdisc).

But with DVD, the VHS cassette's days as the prerecorded medium of choice are numbered. DVD has taken off in a way the laserdisc never did, and if you ask me, its momentum, at this point, is simply unstoppable.

DVD's remarkable success has already shown that recordability isn't a factor anymore, particularly with the advent of personal TV recorders like Tivo.

Even if it were, recordable DVD is just around the corner; in fact, it got plenty of attention at the just-completed International Consumer Electronics Show.

So why does JVC think anyone's going to want to buy Digital VHS? Even if JVC is able to resolve all the other obstacles standing in its way -- final details in a copy-protection agreement have yet to be worked out, particularly concerning Internet retransmissions of digital recordings -- it still must find an audience, a market.

And that audience, that market, simply isn't there.

Comments? Contact TK directly at:TKArnold@aol.com

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