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SanDisk updates flash card line

The memory maker announces a series of updates to its line of removable flash memory cards, including 4GB capacities for CompactFlash and even smaller Secure Digital cards.

SanDisk is refreshing its line of removable flash memory cards with higher capacity CompactFlash cards and smaller versions of the Secure Digital card format.

As previously reported, the SD Card Association has been working on a card that's roughly half the size of current SD cards, which are about the size of a postage stamp. On Thursday at the CeBit conference in Hannover, Germany, the industry group formally announced the format, called miniSD, and Sunnyvale, Calif.-based SanDisk said it would have 16MB cards available to customers in the next 30 days. In the second quarter, SanDisk will begin shipping 32MB and 64MB cards, with 128MB and 256MB versions due in the second half of the year.

Initial shipments will be in Japan, a region that boasts a larger market than the United States for advanced phones with built-in cameras, which require more memory. MiniSD cards will come with SD adapters to make them compatible with devices that use the larger format. Industry groups promoting other removable flash memory card formats have similarly sized cards in the works, an effort to attract cell phone makers and tap a market that chalked up worldwide sales of some 425 million units last year.

Sony announced in July a smaller 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. In late November, Hitachi announced that it is selling a smaller version of the MultiMediaCard format, called the Reduced Size MultiMediaCard (RS-MMC), in Japan and has sample shipments with limited customers in the United States. U.S. retail availability will follow in about a year.

SanDisk's removable flash memory card blitz also included the announcement of a 4GB Type I CompactFlash card. Consumers will be able to store more than 1,000 digital songs or a full length DVD movie on a $999.99 4GB CompactFlash card, according to SanDisk. The company also announced a $499.99 2GB CompactFlash card. Both cards are expected to start shipping this summer.

Lexar Media made similar announcements of 2GB and 4GB CompactFlash cards earlier this month.

Research firm IDC expects worldwide shipments in the memory card market to increase from 52.7 million units in 2002 to 271.2 million units in 2006, mostly due to the proliferation of phone handsets and other digital devices using cards. The research company says shipments of cards used in cell phones should explode from 2001's 600,000 units to nearly 150 million units in 2006, and revenue for memory cards should increase from the $990 million pulled down in 2002 to $2.2 billion in 2006.

SanDisk also announced a $74.99 128MB MultiMediaCard, which will begin shipping to retailers this month and 512MB and 1GB Secure Digital cards. The 512MB SD card will cost $169.99 and will be available in the second quarter, and the $329.99 1GB card will be available in the third quarter.

Removable flash memory cards use solid-state memory, so they're not prone to skipping and can recall information faster than disk-based memory products.