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Microsoft licenses another flash file format

The software maker says it has begun licensing technology related to exFAT, the Extended File Allocation Table memory format that is included in Windows 7.

Microsoft on Thursday said it has started licensing the technology behind another flash memory format.

The company announced a program to license out the Extended File Allocation Table (exFAT) format, which is an updated version of the file allocation table format. Microsoft also licenses out that format, though its patents there have been the subject of contention, particularly since many distributions of Linux include the FAT formats.

The newer format, exFAT, can work on far larger-capacity devices than its predecessor--256 terabytes, as opposed to 32GB for FAT. It also allows for faster file saves on Secure Digital Extended Capacity cards and is more extensible than its predecessor, Microsoft said.

"There has been an explosion in the use of rich audio and video files," David Kaefer, general manager of Intellectual Property Licensing at Microsoft, said in a statement. "ExFAT is an ideal file system that delivers fast and reliable use of audio and video files."

Kaefer added that exFAT is an important technology in Windows 7. "Now that we are licensing this technology broadly to the industry, we want to encourage and support partners to build products that also contain this technology."

Sony, Canon, and Sanyo have already signed up to license the format, Microsoft said.

For certain device categories, such as cameras, camcorders, and digital photo frames, Microsoft is charging a flat $300,000 license fee, while companies that want to use the format in devices such as phones, PCs, and networks will have to pay a volume-based license fee.

Microsoft has been on a push to license out more of its intellectual property since December 2003.

Because of its ties to Linux, the licensing of the FAT technology has been among Microsoft's more controversial moves, resulting in significant efforts to have Microsoft's patents declared invalid.

The patents related to the FAT formats were among those Microsoft included in its suit against TomTom. The two sides later settled the patent dispute.