Portable Storage On The Move at CES
Posted Mar 1, 2003

Several key breakthroughs for SD, Memory Stick, and portable storage technology in general happened in January 2003 at the International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas. The massive consumer technology show saw increases in capacity and versatility, as well as announcements of new compatible products driving portable storage further into the heart of the consumer electronics mainstream.

Panasonic's portable flash storage card of choice, SD, made strides with SanDisk's introduction of the first SD cards targeting the burgeoning "Wi-Fi" market for wireless data exchange and communications. SanDisk's new line incorporates a variety of cards in the new "Connect" family available in both CompactFlash and SD formats. The Wi-Fi-capable cards debuted at CES include dual-function 128MB CompactFlash and 256MB SD cards that combine Wi-Fi and flash memory, and single-function CompactFlash and SD cards with Wi-Fi connectivity. The new Wi-Fi SD cards will bring wireless connectivity to all manner of digital cameras and MP3 players for which it was previously inaccessible, and enables notebook and PDA users who previously had to choose between portable storage and wireless connectivity (with only one card slot) to enjoy both. According to SanDisk senior vice president and retail business general manager Nelson Chan, "With these new SanDisk Connect cards, people on the go can quickly transmit and receive data, images, and music from thousands of locations."

Devices using the new SD and CompactFlash cards can transmit and receive data at speeds up to 11Mbps at a range of 300 feet, according to SanDisk. The drives also feature low power consumption, which eases the strain on a notebook or PDA's battery, and supports PDAs running Palm OS 4.x and up, according to a press release issued by SanDisk at CES. The single-function Wi-Fi CF and SD cards (available now) have a suggested retail price of $99.95, while the dual-function CF cards, at 128MB (also available now), cost $129.95. The 256MB dual-function SD cards, due for mid-year release list for $149.95. The CF pricing includes a PC card adapter for use with Laptop PCs.

CES also bore witness to the ratification of SDIO and format specifications for Personal Information Management (PIM) data, and Image/Video (MPEG-4) data. The adoption of the SDIO standard allows the SD socket to serve as a memory device and an I/O port for device expansion, and enables portable devices such as PDAs and cell phones additional peripheral and accessory options without increasing size or adding complex circuitry. Currently, SanDisk is developing SD cards for wireless functionality using Bluetooth, GPS-based navigational devices, and digital cameras.

As with SD, CES brought big news to the Memory Stick world with SanDisk's introduction of Memory Stick PRO, a new higher-capacity Memory Stick featuring a new metallic gold sheen and up to 1GB of storage in a form-factor identical to earlier, lower-capacity generations of the technology.

The new Stick, jointly developed by SanDisk and Sony, also includes new security features for protection of commercial content (via the proprietary MagicGate copyright technology), and new innovations in data loss prevention technology. According to SanDisk, Memory Stick PRO can be removed during a file transfer without damaging the media's existing file structure. The new Stick's capacity and the 15fps data transfer rates possible in Memory Stick PRO-optimized devices, enable DVD-quality video and CD-quality audio to be captured and stored to the media in real time, according to manufacturer SanDisk and key proponent Sony. The new Memory Stick is available in three capacities—256MB, 512MB, and 1GB—at prices ranging from $189 to $879.