I believe the word Ash is looking for is "proprietary." To me, a more appropriate word would be something like "jackassery." I realize it's easier to make sure your products work well with each other than to assure they work well with competitors' products, but some companies seem to go out of their way to make sure that their products don't
work well with anybody else's products. It's not just Sony; I don't mean to just pick on them. Apple is notorious for it; Microsoft claims not to, but they certainly don't make it easy for competitors to make products compatible with their software. Some companies produce things that seem pretty well universally compatible, among them Samsung and Panasonic (in my experience at least).
As far as DVD Regions, from what I've read, a computer monitor can show either PAL or NTSC, and it is possible to change the regions on a DVD-ROM drive, but only up to five times on most drives (that may have changed, but that's the way it was last year). I found sites here
that might help you with that. There are also software solutions for Windows to accomplish region changes. With stand-alone DVD players, there are sites like this one
that show how to hack dvd players to be region-free, but I have no idea how well they work, and all hacks are done at your own risk.