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Sony's Memory Stick beats at rivals

Philips Electronics is the latest major consumer electronics maker to license Sony's Memory Stick technology, which continues to expand its potential for wider distribution.

Philips Electronics is the latest major consumer electronics maker to license Sony's Memory Stick technology, which continues to gain support from large manufacturers and expand its potential for wider distribution.

Philips announced Tuesday it is licensing 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, according to Philips. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.

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

Sony has been working to expand the influence of the Memory Stick format in an attempt to improve its position in the crowded removable flash memory card market.

Removable flash memory cards are solid-state memory used in portable consumer electronics and PC products. They are known for not skipping when a device that uses the media is jostled. Other flash memory card formats include Secure Digital, xD-Picture Card, MultiMediaCard, SmartMedia and CompactFlash.

Analysts have said any increase Sony can make in the number of products that use Memory Stick cards would be significant, because incompatible formats are one of the biggest hurdles in the flash memory market.

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.

Sony announced earlier this month that it was broadening a partnership with Samsung Electronics it made in 2001. Under the revised agreement, Samsung will begin manufacturing and selling Memory Stick cards later this quarter and bundling cards with compatible products under the Samsung brand.

In mid-June, Memory Stick partner SanDisk also announced it was expanding its agreement with Sony to cover some of the new cards that have already been developed.

As of April, shipments of Memory Stick cards and products that use the cards reached 40 million units. The number of products compatible with Memory Stick is expected to reach 200 million by 2005, according to Sony.

Late last week, Sony announced a new version of its Memory Stick Duo card, called the Memory Stick Pro Duo. It's a smaller, roomier and faster version of its Memory Stick removable flash memory that's meant for digital camcorders and cell phones. The new card has a capacity of up to 512MB, up from a maximum of 128MB in the previous version.