Sony CEO Declares Stalemate in Blu-ray/HD DVD Battle

A widely circulated Associated Press report early this morning quotes Sony CEO Sir Howard Stringer, speaking before a "Captains of Industry" lecture at the Cultural Center of the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan yesterday, as having declared the format war between the Blu-ray format his company champions and HD DVD a "stalemate."

Sir Howard reportedly punctuated those remarks by saying things had been going well for Blu-ray until last August, when rival Viacom unit Paramount decided to end its support for both formats and support HD DVD exclusively.

"It's a difficult fight. We were trying to win on the merits, which we were doing for a while, until Paramount changed sides," the AP quoted Sir Howard as saying. He reportedly added that he wished he had been Sony's CEO several years ago, and if time travel were at all possible he'd use it now, to have brought both sides in the format war together sooner.

The AP report is the only one to emerge from the talk, which apparently no one else had expected would generate news. As such, not much else is known yet about what Sir Howard said, nor whether the 92nd Street Y keeps recordings of its lecture series. But if the AP report is accurate, he appeared to say Sony is now picking its battles, devoting more of its energy now to shoring up its lagging PlayStation brand. Not enough information from the talk is known to decisively conclude whether he directly implied that Sony will shift attention and resources to PlayStation 3 as a game console, away from the Blu-ray player that the PS3 just happens to include.

But given recent events and the format of the talk - which was more about how one runs a business than what products Sony expects to back over the holiday season - that may very well have been what Sir Howard was referring to. Last month, Sony closed a deal to sell one of its premier chip production facilities - where the Cell BE CPU is fabricated - to Toshiba. Talk persists about whether the company may go so far as to sell its intellectual property in Cell to Toshiba or IBM, one of its partners in chip design.

And then there was the incredible news of last weekend, showing evidence that the huge price markdowns for HD DVD players may have helped it close its entire sales gap with Blu-ray in as little as 48 hours.

A corporation can't win all its battles, but it would be nice for it to win at least one or two. Sir Howard Stringer may be aware of this now, and may be transitioning into a mode where he helps his company prepare - at least on this arena - for something less than a victory.

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