PlayStation 3 delayed, to launch in November

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) will launch its next generation PlayStation 3 console in November this year, its top executive said Wednesday.

The console will go on sale in Japan, North America and Europe at the same time, said Ken Kutaragi, president of SCEI, at a briefing for software developers in Tokyo. That would make the PlayStation 3 the first console that SCEI has launched simultaneously in major markets. The company will aim for production of 1 million units per month to satisfy launch demand, said Kutaragi.

Including units produced ahead of the launch date, SCEI expects to have around 6 million consoles in the market by March 2007, said Kutaragi.

Until Wednesday, SCEI had said the console would be launched in "spring" but the delay doesn't come as a surprise. Rumors had been rife in the gaming industry regarding the delay, which was blamed by Kutaragi on the late development of key standards related to high-definition video copy protection and the interface between the console and television.

"There were many things going on and it was rather frustrating but now it is more clear," said Kutaragi of the delayed development of new technology. "Now we have decided early November is the time for the launch."

Kutaragi said the date had been chosen to coincide with the Thanksgiving holiday season in the U.S. and the end of year shopping season worldwide.

The copy protection system, called Advanced Access Content System (AACS), is being developed by a group of eight companies including Sony Corp. and was due to be completed last year but talks are still going on. A preliminary version of AACS, designed to allow manufactures to begin making first-generation Blu-ray Disc players, was announced earlier this month.

The late launch will also allow SCEI to include the latest version of the HDMI (high-definition multimedia interface) standard into the console. HDMI is a digital interface for high-definition video. Connectors for the format are already found on many new high-definition televisions and a new version of the standard, with support for more colors and higher speed, should be ready by June, said Kutaragi.

The delay means that Microsoft Corp. will have had a one year head-start in the high-definition gaming market by the time the PlayStation 3 launches. Microsoft launched its Xbox 360 in North America on Nov. 22, 2005, and followed with launches in Europe and Japan in the following two weeks.

Kutaragi also presented some of the main specifications for the PlayStation 3 although he held off on offering specific details.

"This is not the time to make the product announcement," he said. "This is for me to apologize for the delay and confirm what we are going to do."

The PlayStation 3 will boast legacy compatibility with PlayStation and PlayStation 2 content, support for the Blu-ray Disc video disc format, compatibility with television resolutions from standard to 'full HD,' the latest version of the HDMI interface, a broadband network connection, wireless connectivity and a 60G-byte hard-disk drive, said Kutaragi.

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