Sony Computer Entertainment Europe has shocked the gaming fraternity this morning by announcing that it has pushed back the launch of its next generation games console, the PlayStation 3 to March, 4 months later than planned.

In an official statement, the company said that the revision of the launch date in the SCEE territories is "caused by the delay in the mass production schedule of the blue laser diode within the Sony Group, thus affecting the timely procurement of key components to be utilised in PlayStation 3".

Last month Sony Computer’s American president, Kaz Hirai, has let it slip that manufacturing of the PS3 hasn’t started yet.

Hirai, in an interview with Gamespot UK, said “We haven’t started manufacturing yet. Some of our ops guys were actually just in China, and also in Japan just reviewing the production lines and everything else".

The company has said that there will be no change in launch date for Japan and North America, which will still go ahead on the 11 November for Japan and 17 November for North America.

The console was supposed to originally launch in the PAL territories of Europe, Russia, Middle East, Africa and Australasia from 17th November 2006.

However, the previously announced PlayStation 3 shipment forecast of 6 million units globally within the fiscal year ending 2007 is not changed suggesting that Sony wasn't expecting to sell any units in the PAL territories.

The news is likely to be welcomed in the UK by Microsoft.