Sony confirmed today that the Playstation 3 will not appear until November – a potentially disastrous setback for Sony’s struggling electronics division.

Sony is having a bad time. Sony is completely out of the market for handheld music players, a market it used to own – remember the Walkman? The publicity over the malware installed on computers by Sony audio CDs was one of the most embarrassing and damaging incidents suffered by any technology company. It’s become an also-ran in the market for audio/video equipment and televisions.

Microsoft expects stores to be fully stocked with XBox 360’s by the end of March. Next week, the game Elder Scrolls: Oblivion will be released for XBox 360 and PC – one of the most highly-anticipated games of the year, possibly the game that will make XBox 360 look irresistible. Playstation 3 will cost five hundred dollars or more; the expectation is that when it is finally released, Microsoft will drop the price of XBox 360 to three hundred dollars or less and release Halo 3, another hot game that will divert attention from Sony’s product.

There’s another issue that might interfere with a successful Playstation 3 launch. It will be based on the new Blu-ray DVD format, which is hugely important to Sony’s future. Sony is obsessing over copy protection for Blu-ray discs, to the point that the momentum appears to be shifting to Toshiba’s competing format for high-definition DVDs. If the copy protection is intrusive, Sony will be exposed to withering blasts of publicity, fueled by consumer memories of the audio CD debacle.

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