With the launch of the PlayStation 3 approaching, some speculation about initial shipment volumes is inevitable thanks to the likely inability of stores to satisfy demand. But the guesswork has gotten off to an early start thanks to a gaffe by a PlayStation executive and an analyst report from Tokyo.

Kaz Hirai, head of Sony's US unit, said in an interview last week that the company plans to ship 2 million of the consoles in the current calendar year. That's half of the 4 million consoles the company originally planned to ship. But Sony said today that Hirai spoke out of turn and that the company's original plan remains in place.

It calls for 2 million consoles to be ready at launch, a further 2 million to ship before the end of the year, and an additional 2 million to ship in the January to March quarter of 2007. The PlayStation 3 is due to be launched in Japan on 11 November, and in North America, Europe and Australasia on 17 November.

A day earlier, Mitsubishi UFJ Securities downgraded Sony stock from a 2 to a 3 on its rating scale, citing expected low shipments of the console. The Japanese brokerage house said it expects total shipments from the launch until the end of March 2007 to be just 3 million units - half of Sony's target.

Mitsubishi UFJ Securities believes that supply problems for some electronics components used in the gaming machine will cause Sony to miss its target. The components in question were not identified.