PSP owners gobble up Memory Sticks

You can still buy a PlayStation Portable if you look in the right places, but good luck snagging a memory card for it.

You can still buy a PlayStation Portable if you look in the right places, but good luck snagging a memory card for it.

High-capacity versions of the Memory Stick cards that the new gadget uses to store video, photos and music have been in short supply almost since the handheld game player went on sale. Flash memory specialist SanDisk is scrambling to get more in stores.

"It's been hard to keep up with the demand," said Christina Day, product marketing manager for SanDisk. "It's a good problem to have, but we don't want to have people frustrated."

SanDisk formed a partnership with Sony years ago to establish the Memory Stick format and has typically shared the market evenly with Sony.

To date, the cards have chiefly been used in Sony digital cameras. The PSP posed the first opportunity to reach a broader audience, and SanDisk decided to court potential buyers with neon-colored cards bearing a "compatible with PSP" label.

The strategy has worked, Day said, with 20 percent to 30 percent of PSP buyers also grabbing a SanDisk card. But the company underestimated how storage-hungry those customers would be, leading to almost instant sell-outs of the highest-capacity cards, 512MB and 1GB.

"We weren't sure how popular video was going to be as a feature," Day said, noting the complex process required to convert video clips into a format the PSP can use.

Turns out PSP owners are grabbing and encoding every they can find, and they're already clamoring for bigger cards. "We're getting a lot of questions about 2GB Memory Sticks," Day said.

SanDisk expects the 2GB cards to hit stores in two or three months, she said, around the same time the company will open a third factory that should help it keep up with the sudden spike in demand. "We're doing our best to meet demand," she said.

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