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Vendors flock to ministorage card

With support from the largest consumer electronics companies and PC vendors already secured, a matchbook-sized data storage card technology may soon forge another link between consumer electronics devices and PCs.

With support from the largest consumer electronics companies and PC vendors already secured, a matchbook-sized data storage card technology may soon forge another link between consumer electronics devices and PCs.

The Miniature Card standard is designed to provide a common storage card design for use in PCs and consumer electronics devices such as digital cameras, digital audio recorders, cellular phones, and PDAs. Miniature Cards lets a consumer electronics device--such as a digital camera--exchange data with a PC that has a Miniature Card slot in the same manner that PCs can exchange data using floppy disks.

Companies that have stated support for the Miniature Card specification include Compaq Computer, Intel, Hewlett-Packard, Konica, Microsoft, Nokia Mobile Phones, Philips Electronics, Advanced Micro Devices, Fujitsu Limited Micron Technology, Micron, and Sharp.

The support for Miniature Card dovetails with the recent endorsement by Compaq, Microsoft, Texas Instruments, and Digital Equipment of the separate 1394 specification, which provides a way to hook up camcorders and VCRs directly to a PC.

Both specifications are part of a growing trend to connect and integrate PCs and consumer electronics devices, said Dean McCarron an analyst at the Scottsdale, Arizona-based marketing research firm Mercury Research. "I think this [1394 and Miniature Card] is where things really start getting exciting since you're actually enhancing [the consumer electronics product] that you have using PC technology. The sum is greater than the parts," McCarron said.

Intel intends to deliver a Miniature Card memory card in the second quarter. The company would not specify the capacity, but the specification supports storage sizes from 4MB to 64MB.

Compaq wants to use the Miniature Card to extend storage options for its portable computer lines. "Compaq sees the Miniature Card as a space-efficient and easy way for users to expand the memory of mobile computing devices as well as to share data with other electronic products," said Ed Olkkola, vice president of Compaq Portables Division, in a written statement.

The company has not yet announced a delivery schedule for systems that include Miniature Card slots.

Philips Electronics has also indicated that its future handheld devices will use Miniature Cards.

Links between PCs and consumer devices could even eventually embrace home power consumption devices such as air conditioners and central heating units, according to McCarron.