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Sony: PS3 not in production

Won't be enough to go around in any case

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Sony has admitted it has yet to begin manufacturing its PlayStation 3 console, less than three months before the machine is due to go on sale. The revelation raises the prospect that supply is going to be tight in the early days.

Speaking to US website Gamespot, Sony Computer Entertainment America president Kaz Hirai said: "We haven't started manufacturing yet." The company is currently "preparing... to get manufacturing going", he added.

Hirai said Sony had yet to decide how many units will be allocated to the three territories the PS3 will launch in next November, but he stressed the company's plan to ship 2m consoles worldwide by the end of the calendar year, which means "you're talking about less than 700,000 units per territory... between launch and the end of the year". The result: "You're going to end up with some shortages."

That goes double since Sony is coming to market with two PS3 configurations: the 20GB HDD versions pitched at gamers, and the more expensive, 60GB HDD model aimed at folk keen to buy a broader multimedia device.

Last month, it was alleged that Asustek had begun producing PS3s. Hirai's comments would appear to contradict such claims, unless the Taiwanese contract manufacturer has been building production samples or the hardware component of Sony's PS3 software development kit.

At the back of market watchers' minds is the supply problems Microsoft faced late last year getting sufficient Xbox 360 consoles onto the market. Not that such limitations need been viewed negatively. From the vendor's perspective, shortages may be advantageous: it creates publicity for their product and can actually heighten demand for it. The trick is to make the console hard to get, but not so difficult to buy that punters opt for competitors' products instead.

Anyone after a PS3 is probably unlikely to go for an Xbox 360 instead - they'd have one by now if that were the case. But if Sony gauges the market incorrectly, it could create an opportunity not for Microsoft but Nintendo, with consumers choosing the much cheaper Wii as a stopgap until sufficient numbers of PS3s come on stream. ®

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