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article imageDid Sony's CEO Dig Blu-Ray's Grave, or Was This Just a Series of Idiotic Events?

By Chris Hogg     Nov 11, 2007 in Technology
Sony let its guard down for a millisecond, and it's going to take a beating for it. The head of Sony told the media the high-def DVD battle was in a stalemate. He also said he wished he would have collaborated with Toshiba rather than competing. What?
Digital Journal, OP-ED: They are tactics that almost every competitive tech company employs: Don't talk about the competition and definitely don't admit weakness. Sony CEO Howard Stringer threw them both out the window this week when he said the format war between the next generation of high-def DVDs (Blu-ray and HD DVD) was in a stalemate.
And then he said four words that will haunt him forever: "It's a difficult fight."
While Stringer might not be saying anything untrue, he let his guard down to very fierce and hungry competitors. Blu-ray, backed by a large number of companies and movie studios is up against HD DVD, backed by Microsoft, Toshiba and its share of Hollywood studios.
The format war has been ongoing for years, and despite the fact there is no clear winner, Blu-ray has gone so far as issuing press releases in the past to declare itself victorious.
But it seems Sony has now realized it's not in the ring with a push-over, and winning the format war is not going to be as simple as the cocky Blu-ray camp has boasted it to be.
Going into the all-important holiday season, Toshiba has been hawking its players for as low as $200 in the U.S., while the cheapest Blu-ray players are twice as much.
Furthermore, Sony seems to be suffering from, er, Blu-balls, after Paramount Pictures announced it was going to put out to HD DVD exclusively.
The fight has been long and bloody, but Sony made it much worse this week. Not only did Stringer say his format was not leading, he said the war was a "stalemate."
The CEO then took it to an embarrassing level when he said winning the war is more about prestige than whose format wins out. "[Winning] doesn't mean as much as all that," Stringer said.
Who wants to call this one? Do you? OK, I will: B.S. In competition, since when does winning not matter? I'm sure Sony and Blu-ray backers have not been investing in a multi-billion-dollar battle to fill their egos.
And no, the Blu-ray embarrassment doesn't end there. Stringer went on to say he believes his company had an opportunity to unite HD-DVD under one format before he became CEO, and he wishes he had a time machine to travel back and make that happen.
If wishing one could have a time machine to join with the competition is not a pseudo admission of defeat, it's at least a suggestion that Sony has no clue what to do anymore.
And trust me Howie, we all wish you could go back to the future -- it's not just you. Then maybe we would have a player that was produced for us, not for your prestige. One that was affordable, not one that costs more than $1,000. Instead, you've been showing off.
Stringer was confident about one aspect of Blu-ray, however, as he touted the company's PlayStation 3 video game console. This despite the fact, as Associated Press reports, sales have been dismal compared to the competing Nintendo Wii console.
Stringer said the PS3 was the best-selling console in Europe, and he noted a price cut doubled sales recently in the U.S. "We are coming back up again," Stringer said.
Again? When did Sony fall off the podium? According to other Sony execs, Sony has always been leading: “We’ve won the console war,” Ian Jackson, director of Sony Computer Entertainment Canada, told when the PS3 first launched.
A standing ovation from everyone at, as Sony proves once again it is highly capable of stuffing its clumsy foot in its mouth with great ease and speed.
So who is really ahead in the format war? Well it depends who you ask. As Ars Technica reported in September, the race will go into 2009, at least: "After saying two years ago that Blu-ray would be the clear winner, Forrester Research is now saying that an eventual victory by Blu-ray is no longer guaranteed."
Perhaps we're being too hard on Sony, you say? Well, Stringer's admittance of weakness would have been admirable had it happened from the get-go. He would have looked like the good guy who thinks about the consumer first; a smart CEO that considers the expensive and lengthy battle a format war would produce; and how far along we would be today had collaboration occurred.
Sony and the HD DVD camp had a chance to work together from the get-go, but they didn't. Both sides are to blame in this never-ending tech circus.
Instead, they chose to veil their idiotic I-have-a-bigger-player-than-you competition as a battle the "consumer will decide." It was never about the consumer, and they know it.
As they said, it's about their prestige.

Who Is Going to Win the High-Def DVD War?

Both Blu-ray and HD DVD have very, very loyal fans who would practically give blood to save the beating heart of their brand.
But some say Blu-ray doesn't have a leg to stand on anymore. One such critic is Don Lindich, a columnist, author and blogger for
The Blu-ray fans are going to say he sounds like he might be on Toshiba or Microsoft's payroll. Agreed. But he does bring up many good points: "In the words of video industry legend Joe Kane, 'Blu-ray is all about greed.' Though a poor value, many retailers push Blu-ray because of the higher price and higher margin. It's easy to debunk Blu-ray's purported advantages."
Lindich says despite the fact more studios support Blu-ray, HD DVD is getting more attractive, as both Paramount and DreamWorks recently ditched the format.
Furthermore, the Blu-ray camp constantly advertises it has a higher capacity. As Lindich says, it's a non-issue as, HD DVD has more than enough space to do the job, plus it costs less to make.
Also, for the argument that more companies back the Blu-ray format: Lindich says, "...almost all of the 'Blu-ray players' sold so far are Playstation 3 game consoles that happen to have a Blu-ray drive in them. Many, if not most of them, are used solely as game machines. HD DVD has the lead in stand-alone players." He says, with the core sales of Blu-ray being from PS3, that means there are 10 obsolete companies on this side of the fence.
And finally, Lindich says title sales don't mean anything yet because it's all peanuts compared to regular DVD sales. Blu-ray has sold more titles to date, but Lindich says "Blu-ray's tiny numerical lead will be obliterated soon anyway because kingmaker Wal-Mart has embraced HD DVD. In early November, Wal-Mart placed HD DVD ads on primetime TV and ran a promotion estimated to have sold well over 50,000 players in a single day."
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