The launch has been delayed due to shortages of a key part, the company said on Wednesday.

"I feel sorry. I think there are so many people out there who hold such high expectations for PS3," Ken Kutaragi, the head of Sony's game unit, said.

The delay means that the company's new games console will not be on sale in time for the critical Christmas shopping season.

This is the second time Sony, which competes with Microsoft and Nintendo in a $30 billion global video game market, has delayed the sale of its latest blockbuster PlayStation console.

The announcement, made after the Tokyo stock market closed, comes after recalls of almost 6 million computer notebook PC batteries Sony provided to Dell and Apple.

Manufacturing problems

The recent problems have raised concerns over the company's manufacturing ability.

The delay means that the PS3 falls substantially behind rival machines Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii in reaching some markets.

Microsoft launched its Xbox 360 late last year and Nintendo plans to offer the Wii in the final quarter of 2006.

Kutaragi, known as the 'father of the PlayStation', said commercial production of a blue laser projector, a key component for PS3's optical disc drive, had fallen behind schedule.