someone recently posted a thread about a guy taking his 70-200 IS apart... from what i see from the pictures, my understanding is that the 70-200 is able to counter movements in the pitch and yaw axis. if the camera were to be in the elevation axis, the system cannot compensate for it (imagine sitting in a car on rocky road bouncing up and down vertically).
I have yet to see the innards of the 70-200 VR.
Ultimately, think it is roughly the same. To reduce some mini-shake caused by unsteady hands.
If you are really really interested in it, can do a patent search on both the systems and check out the diff. Remeber to share your findings here after you have done so . ;D