Hitachi shrinks its flash memory card

The company says it will be the first manufacturer to come out with a mini-flash memory card that meets the specifications of a newly approved card format.

As demand for smaller devices gets bigger and bigger, Hitachi is latching onto the trend with its new removable mini-flash memory card.

The new cards measure 0.9 inches by 0.7 inches by 0.06 inches--about half the size of multimedia memory cards used in many consumer products. Hitachi is already selling the cards in Japan and is expected to announce the cards in the United States on Dec. 4.

"Devices have been going towards smaller and smaller form factors, and it is necessary to address a smaller card format," said Victor Tsai, product manager at Hitachi.

The new card is the first of its kind to meet the requirements of a recently approved flash memory card format called the Reduced Size MultiMediaCard (RS-MMC) standard. The RS-MMC specification was approved earlier this month by standards group the MultiMediaCard Association and targets mobile phones, handhelds and digital imaging devices.

Hitachi expects to start shipping the cards in high volume in the second quarter of 2003, and device makers will likely announce support for the RS-MMC format around the same time, Tsai said.

The RS-MMC cards are part of a larger trend toward smaller and less power-consuming removable flash memory card formats for gadgets that are getting smaller but require higher memory capacities, such as new cell phones with built-in digital cameras and wristwatch PDA (personal digital assistant) devices.

As more devices become connected to wireless networks and include integrated features, smaller cards will become a more significant part of the removable flash memory card market, according to Alan Niebel, a Web-Feet Research analyst.

Sony announced in July a smaller version of its Memory Stick, called the Memory Stick Duo, which is currently available in Japan and is expected to be released in the United States in early 2003. In July, camera makers Olympus and Fuji Photo Film announced a replacement for the SmartMedia format, called the xD-Picture Card.

Hitachi's new cards will be available in 16MB, 32MB and 64MB capacities, with 128MB and 256MB versions due out in late 2003. The RS-MMC cards can be used in MultiMediaCard slots using an adapter. Hitachi is selling the cards to resellers for $14 for the 16MB cards, $18 for 32MB cards, and $28 for 64MB cards. Tsai said he expects street prices to be about 60 percent above reseller prices.

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