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9/7/2006
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Blue Laser Glitch Forces Another Delay On Sony PS3

Sony will delay the PlayStation 3's debut in Europe until next March. Initial volume shipments to the U.S. and Japan, slated to begin in November, have been scaled back.

TOKYO — Sony's Playstation 3 game console continues to wreak havoc on its recovery plans, with blue laser production issues forcing Sony to further delay volume production of the troubled game system.

Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. said it has delayed Playstation 3's debut in Europe until next March. Initial volume shipments of the game system to the U.S. and Japan, slated to begin in November, have been scaled back from earlier projections.

The introduction of Playstation 3 is already six months behind schedule. SCE President and CEO Ken Kutaragi cited delays in standardization of the Blu-ray Disc format and to the inclusion of next-generation high-definition multimedia interface specifications.

Under the latest plan, 500,000 units will initially be available, including about 100,000 in Japan and 400,000 in the U.S. By year's end, a total of 1 million units will be shipped in Japan and the U.S.—half of the original plan.

Sony plans to ship 6 million Playstation 3 units by next March, in line with original expectations.

To achieve this goal, Sony must bring its crystalline growing reactors online for mass producing blue lasers. The reactors were scheduled to come online earlier this year, but engineers failed to meet the ramp-up schedule.

"We have established a process technology for blue laser production," said a Sony spokesman. "We are already making blue lasers fabricated with a former reactor. But it took more time than we planned to tune the large reactors for volume production."

Sony and Nichia Corp. agreed to cross license blue laser technologies in April 2004. Sony has been readying its production system for blue lasers at its Shiraishi fab. Playstation 3 is for now the only application requiring large numbers of blue lasers, thus leaving Sony without an alternative supplier.

Said Kutaragi: "If asked whether Sony's level of manufacturing technology declined, I have to admit it under the present circumstance. But Sony intends to prove its technical capabilities by manufacturing the necessary number of blue lasers from now on."

The blue laser problem is the latest technical glitch for Sony. It is already under fire for producing faulty lithium-ion batteries used in Dell and Apple laptop battery packs. Both companies issued recalls after reports of fires. The battery recall is likely to cost Sony as much as $256 million.

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