The Sony PlayStation Vita has already passed through the FCC in the US, and a recent leak suggested the European launch is slated for October. Despite this, Sony plans to start selling the PS Vita portable in the US and Europe next year, missing the key holiday 2011 shopping season.

Only Japan will see the product launch before the end of December 2011, followed by introductions in the US and Europe early next year. Kazuo Hirai, Chairman Howard Stringer's top lieutenant, made the announcement to reporters in Tokyo today, according to Bloomberg.

Previously, Sony had said it planned a phased global rollout of the PS Vita throughout the end of 2011, but wouldn't provide specifics. It was generally believed that Sony would have the device out internationally before the end of the year. The device is region-free, however, meaning can purchase a game and system from any two different regions and they will be compatible. It looks like if you want the PS Vita in 2011, you're going to need to make a trip to Japan.

Sony is promising that the PS Vita will give a PS3-level experience with a quad-core ARM Cortex-A9 processor and a multi-core PowerVR SGX543MP4 graphics chip four times faster than the PSP's. The device will come with a 5-inch OLED screen (950 x 544 resolution), two micro-analog sticks to simulate the Dual Shock experience, front and rear facing cameras, and two-finger multitouch pad on the back of the machine. Sony is hoping the front and rear touch screens will offer new three dimension-like motion gameplay experiences never before seen on any device through "touch, grab, trace, push and pull" finger motions. A Sixaxis equivalent with a gyroscope and accelerometer is also available to let players control games by moving and tilting the system itself.

In terms of connectivity you can expect built-in 3G in addition to Wi-Fi and Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, as well as GPS support. The PS Vita will come with a pre-installed app called Party, which lets you use voice chat or text chat when gaming, using other apps, or browsing the Internet. Another app, called Near, will let you share your game information with other users and add them as friends.

The Wi-Fi model will be available for 25,000 yen (including tax) in Japan, $250.00 in the US, and €250.00 in Europe, while the 3G/Wi-Fi model will be available for 30,000 yen (including tax) in Japan, $300.00 in the US and €300.00 in Europe. Exact release dates are still unknown.