Sony will launch its next generation PlayStation 3 console in November this year, its top executive said today.

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

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

Until Wednesday, the company had said the console would be launched in spring, but the delay doesn't come as a surprise. Rumours had been rife in the gaming industry regarding the delay, which was blamed by Kutaragi on the late development of key standards related to HD (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's clearer," 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 US and the end-of-year shopping season worldwide.

The copy protection system, called AACS (Advanced Access Content System), is being developed by a group of eight companies including Sony 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 Sony to include the latest version of the HDMI (HD multimedia interface) standard into the console. HDMI is a digital interface for HD video. Connectors for the format are already found on many new HD televisions and a new version of the standard, with support for more colours and higher speed, should be ready by June, Kutaragi said.

The delay means Microsoft will have had a one-year head-start in the HD gaming market by the time the PlayStation 3 launches. Microsoft launched its Xbox 360 in North America on 22 Novomber 2005, and followed with launches in Europe and Japan in the next 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 apologise 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 60GB hard drive, Kutaragi said.