08.25.2003 12:00 PM
Flash memory wars heat up in move to digital video

Sony Electronics has announced a smaller, faster version of its Memory Stick flash memory storage card for consumers. A primary target product for the enhanced memory module are digital camcorders, both consumer and professional.

Under optimal conditions, Sony's Memory Stick Pro Duo can transfer data at a rate of up to 160Mbps. Memory Stick Pro Duo also provides users with with a storage capacity of up to 512MB.

Sony’s new postage-stamp-sized product, with a capacity of up to 512MB, is called the Memory Stick Pro Duo. Under optimal conditions, it can transfer data at a rate of up to 160Mbps. Memory Stick Pro Duo can provide users with high levels of performance, such as the recording of high-resolution moving images.

“Video streaming is critical for Sony, because digital camcorders will be a strong category in the future, so cards will need faster transfer rates,” said Joseph Unsworth, an analyst with research firm Gartner.

Memory Sticks use solid-state, nonvolatile flash memory. Originally designed for use in portable consumer electronics, digital cameras and computer products, the cards won’t skip when a device is jostled and don’t loose information when electricity is removed.

Last week, Philips Electronics announced it will license Sony’s Memory Stick technology for use with its Nexperia chips, which are used in consumer products such as DVD players, cell phones and other handheld devices. Nexperia-based products with Memory Stick technology will be available in the second quarter of next year.

“End-users will then be able to share, exchange and record content on a multitude of consumer devices,” said Leon Husson, executive vice president of Philips Semiconductors.

Though flash memory cards are now targeted mainly for consumer applications, the rapidly falling prices of flash memory is soon expected to impact professional products. At NAB2003, Panasonic showed a prototype of a new generation professional camcorder that would record video on flash memory cards.

Sony’s Memory Stick holds the No. 2 market share position, behind Secure Digital. In 2002, Memory Stick had 21 percent of the nearly $2 billion worldwide market, which is expected to grow to $4.6 billion in revenue by 2007, according to Gartner.

Flash memory card makers SanDisk and Lexar Media announced last week that they will begin selling the Pro Duo cards in September. The 256MB Pro Duo cards will cost about $130, and the 512MB cards will cost about $300, according to Sony.

For more information on Sony Memory Stick products, visit: www.ita.sel.sony.com/memorystick.

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