David Bishop, worldwide president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, won't say outright that his company has won the high-definition DVD war over archrival Toshiba, but he sure talks like someone who thinks he has.
At CES Monday Bishop was talking about the DVD war in the past tense now that Warner Brothers has opted to go exclusively with Sony's Blu-ray gear
"The challenge of the format war is that it kept consumers on the fence," he says after a Blu-ray-touting extravaganza that was co-hosted by movie critic Leonard Maltin. "There was confusion in the marketplace on every level. Retailers didn't know what to recommend. Consumers were confused."
That sounds more like a history of the DVD wars than the play-by-play of an ongoing contest.
For its part, Toshiba refuses to concede. Akiyo Ozaka, president of Toshiba America Consumer Products, told an audience here Sunday that his company hasn't yet lost the fight.
But Bishop is clearly looking past Toshiba. He says Sony can now use a marketing message that focuses on the benefits of DVD technology in general—some analysts don't see real benefit in high-def — rather than focus on how Blu-ray is better than HD DVD.
"Before, we were like Coke and Pepsi," Bishop says. "Now, the marketing message changes a lot. Now we get to talk about the DVD the way we should talk about the DVD."
Bishop says Blu-ray was "already winning" over HD DVD by a wide margin in the U.S. and was even further ahead of its rival in Europe and Japan. And indeed, even before the Warner Bros. bombshell, many market-watchers were already speaking openly about Toshiba being on the ropes, if not yet flat on the mat.
So has Sony won? Is it over?
"You know, I won't say that now," says a diplomatic Bishop.
At least not in so many words.
Editor's note: As part of our extensive coverage of CES, CNBC.com's Brian Clark and Ted Kemp will be at the event and contributing to this special edition of Tech Check
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