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Stringer Gets Under Gates' Skin over Blu-ray?

The ongoing battle for the hearts and wallets of the world's next generation of DVD consumers may have gotten unusually heated on a personal level between Microsoft founder Bill Gates and Sony boss Howard Stringer this past summer. According to a special tech report in the Oct. 17 edition of BusinessWeek, the private flare-up over the incompatible formats pitting Sony's Blu-ray with Toshiba's HD DVD came at an annual meeting of 400 top media and telecom leaders in Sun Valley, Idaho.

According to a couple of unnamed witnesses, Gates laid into Stringer in no uncertain terms for allegedly seeing to it that Blu-ray will not work smoothly with Gates' Microsoft Windows operating system. Stringer, reportedly taken aback by the uncharacteristic confrontation by the typically mild-mannered Gates, reportedly assured the Microsoft chairman that Blu-ray will work just fine on PCs.

Stringer reportedly was overheard muttering to an assistant that something else must have been gnawing at Gates, other than the Blu-ray issue. Microsoft's PR dept. later denied that the exchange was heated, in contrast to the eyewitness accounts, but acknowledged in a bit of understatement that the two execs do not share similar views on future DVD formats. That became unmistakably clear in late September when Microsoft and chipmaker Intel announced they would side with Toshiba's HD DVD system.

Incidentally, the BusinessWeek special report appears to conclude that Blu-ray will win the format war. It cited several factors to back up its contention, including what the publication sees as Blu-ray's extra safeguards to combat copyright infringement, a more impressive storage disc capacity, and the feeling (for a variety of reasons) that Sony will do everything within its power to make certain it does not lose this format battle--as it did 30 years ago with the war over Betamax versus VHS.