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Removable-storage revenue doubles

Global revenue for removable solid-state storage devices nearly doubled in 2003, as flash cards and Universal Serial Bus flash devices found increasing acceptance, according to Gartner.

Global revenue for removable solid state storage devices nearly doubled in 2003, as flash cards and Universal Serial Bus flash devices found increasing acceptance among consumers, according to a study released Wednesday by Gartner.

Last year's worldwide revenue jumped to $4.25 billion from 2002's $2.13 billion.

"Lower costs in the retail channel encouraged consumers to purchase higher-capacity products and fueled overall megabyte growth," said a statement from Joseph Unsworth, analyst for Gartner's semiconductor group.

Gartner said explosive demand, particularly for USB flash drives, quickly outpaced supply at the component level, thrusting the market into an undersupply situation during the second half of 2003. As a result, price drops that had started in the early part of 2003 slowed down by midyear and then stayed firm. The USB flash drives segment grew a record 352 percent, to $613.1 million in 2003 from $135.6 million in 2002.

The market did not see any major upsets, as the top three manufacturers held on to their positions. Ownership of intellectual property and extensive range of flash card devices helped SanDisk retain the No. 1 spot with 26 percent market share, while Toshiba kept the second position with 15 percent. Sony saw its share drop from 14.9 percent in 2002 to 11.9 percent this year, but held on to third place because of the wider installed base of its consumer electronics products. Lexar Media and Renesas Technology swapped fourth and fifth positions.

According to Unsworth, USB flash drives received wider acceptance because they offered a simple solution for consumers to store and transport large amounts of data by exploiting the omnipresent USB interface. "Initially seen as a replacement for the diskette drive, flash drives have evolved to add new functionality through software and hardware enhancements," he said.

Many USB flash drive makers came together last year to promote this tiny data storage product.

Similarly, the flash card segment grew 82 percent in 2003 to $3.64 billion, up from $1.2 billion in 2002. SanDisk maintained the top position with 29 percent market share as two of its flash cards--CompactFlash and SD Card--enjoyed 33 percent and 30 percent market shares. SanDisk also introduced several new flash card products, including a combination SD card with 256MB of memory and WLAN connectivity for handheld devices, last week.