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Secure Digital gains ground in memory

Newer flash memory cards continue to take market share from older stalwarts, and Secure Digital is leading the pack with its postage stamp-size removable flash memory format.

Newer flash memory cards continue to gradually take market share from older stalwarts--with Secure Digital leading the pack.

Recent sales data from U.S. retail market tracker NPD Group indicates that market share for Secure Digital cards has doubled from 10.8 percent in 2002 to 22.9 percent for the first two months of 2003. Data for March is not yet available, but NPD analyst Tom Edwards said he expects the growth trend for Secure Digital cards to continue. Secure Digital, which first appeared on the market in late 2000, is a postage stamp-size card.

There are a number of removable flash memory card formats on the market, which vary in size and shape. The newer, smaller cards--which include Secure Digital, Memory Stick, MultiMedia Card and xD-Picture Card--at one time were more expensive than the older formats, but as they've become more popular and sales have increased, their prices have come down and their storage capacities have grown. Older cards include CompactFlash and SmartMedia.

Removable flash memory cards use solid-state memory, so they're less prone to skipping and can recall information faster than disk-based memory products. With the growing popularity of devices that use digital media--such as digital audio players and cell phones with built-in digital cameras--higher capacity cards and, in the case of cell phones, smaller card sizes, are becoming increasingly important to drive product sales for device and card manufacturers.

These points are underscored by recent NPD data that shows an increase in market share of newer and smaller formats such as Secure Digital and the xD-Picture Card, compared with a relatively significant decline for CompactFlash and SmartMedia. Market share for xD-Picture Cards are up to 5.7 percent so far in 2003 from 2.2 percent in 2002. CompactFlash has been declining over the last four years and was down to 26.6 percent from 34.1 percent in 2002. The same is true for SmartMedia, which is down to 15.6 percent from 22.4 percent in 2002.

Memory Stick dipped to 19.6 percent in 2003 from 2002, but it had been ticking upwards. The Memory Stick format was introduced in late 1998, and it gradually gained market share over the next couple of years.

IDC analyst Mario Morales said the NPD data does not include sales information for the Japanese market, which contributes significantly to the removable flash memory market because of the large number of standalone digital cameras and cell phones with built-in digital camera that are sold there and use removable flash memory cards.

Morales added that while Sony has primarily been the only advocate for the Memory Stick format, its market share will likely see a boost once Samsung Electronics begins to sell products with built-in Memory Stick card readers, something it announced that it would do in 2001.