By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
Flash-memory vendors continued to expand their product lines in the wake of increasingly sophisticated digital cameras, offering higher capacities, quicker read/write speeds and more built-in “intelligence” in the popular storage medium.
Kingston introduced a 2GB and 4GB CompactFlash card in its Elite Pro line for $219 and $500, respectively. The cards are available now and offer read speeds up to 10MBps and write speeds up to 8MBps.
Lexar unveiled a new flash-memory technology called ActiveMemory, at the Photokina trade show in Cologne, Germany.
The system centers around new Professional CompactFlash cards that store user preferences and host device settings, such as custom digital-camera settings or image captions, in a protected area on the card. This secure area cannot be erased when the card is formatted or when other files are deleted. These settings can only be modified by the host application that created them in the first place and can be used to auto-configure multiple ActiveMemory-enabled products.
The ActiveMemory CompactFlash cards will ship by the end of the year in capacities from 512MB to 4GB; pricing has not been set. The company will also offer ActiveMemory-enabled card readers.
ActiveMemory software applications will initially include the Lexar-distributed Photo Mechanic 4.5 image browsing software. There are no cameras currently compatible with ActiveMemory.
According to Lexar, ActiveMemory could bestow benefits on any software or host application that uses flash memory by automating or configuring tasks based on reading software settings or user preferences that reside in a protected area on a memory card.
The company also added the xD-Picture Card to its line of Kodak-branded flash memory cards. The cards will ship in the fourth quarter from 32MB ($14.99) to 512MB ($169.99) capacities. The 128MB card will have a suggested retail of $44.99; the 256MB card will carry a $89.99 suggested retail.
Toshiba introduced two new SD cards in 512MB and 1GB capacities. The 512MB card will be a high-speed product with a maximum write speed of 10MBps and a sustained write speed of 5MBps. It will have a suggested retail price of $225. The 1GB standard SD will cost a suggested $350.
SanDisk came to Photokina with souped-up flash memory cards for advanced photographers, new card readers, and a new version of its TV photo viewer with additional file support and a reduced price.
SanDisk's Photo Album set-top box flash reader lets users display digital still pictures and video on TVs in addition to playing MP3 music files through a television or home audio system. The device supports eight flash memory card formats, including CompactFlash Type I & II, SD, MMC, Memory Stick/Memory Stick PRO, SmartMedia and the xD-Picture Card through slots on the front.
The back of the unit sports two USB ports, one of which can be used to connect the device to a PC, the other to serve as a host port for USB flash drives. The device also features a second CompactFlash card slot on the back that serves as a quasi-permanent repository for files that users want to access long term. Users can transfer image or video files to the auxiliary CompactFlash card by pressing a “store” button on the included remote control. Images are automatically resized to VGA resolution, allowing for maximum storage on the card.
The Photo Album supports JPEG, MP3, Motion JPEG and MPEG-1 file formats and will have a suggested retail price of $49.99.
The company also introduced its fastest flash cards to date, the Extreme III line, which includes CompactFlash, SD and Memory Stick PRO cards and is targeted toward advanced amateur and pro photographers.
The CompactFlash and SD cards have minimum read/write speeds of 20MBps while the Memory Stick PRO cards have a minimum read/write speeds of 18MBps. The new performance specs represent a doubling from the preceding Extreme product line, SanDisk said. They also feature a guaranteed operating temperature range from -13° F to 185° F. The cards will ship with a copy of RescuePRO data recovery software.
The cards will be available in 1GB, 2GB and 4GB capacities in October and November and will ship to principally higher-end photo retailers. The SD card will be sold in a 1GB capacity at a suggested price of $139.99. The Memory Stick PRO in 1GB and 2GB will have suggested retails of $279.99 and $559.99, respectively.
The company also quadrupled the capacity of its Ultra II line. The line, which is geared toward consumers with higher-end digital cameras, will include an 8GB CompactFlash Type I card, a 4GB Memory Stick PRO and a 2GB SD card. Each of the cards in the Ultra II line feature a minimum write speed of 9MBps and a minimum read speed of 10MBps.
Ultra II CompactFlash cards are shipping now in capacities from 256MB to 2GB with suggested retails between $49.99 and $249.99. The 4GB capacity CompactFlash card will ship next month for a suggested $479.99 with an 8GB card following in November for a suggested $959.99.
Ultra II Memory Stick PRO in 256MB to 1GB are shipping now for a suggested $74.99 to $249.99. A 2GB and 4GB PRO card will ship in November for a suggested $479.99 and $959.99, respectively.
The Ultra II SD card, in 256MB and 512MB capacities, is available now for a suggested $64.99 and $89.99, respectively. A 1GB for $119.99 and a 2GB for $239.99 will ship in November.
Olympus announced that it will ship a 1GB xD-Picture Card in the first quarter of 2005. According to Chip Pryor, memory products business manager, Olympus, the new card will not work on some existing Olympus models, while others will need a firmware update. The company will release a list of compatible cameras before the retail launch of the card.
Pricing was not announced.
Panasonic introduced a new line of SD cards, called the Pro High Speed, in 512MB and 1GB capacities. The new line features data transfer speeds of up to 20MBps on compatible devices. The cards deliver read/write speeds up to 10MBps on existing SD products. The cards ship this month for a suggested $249.99 and $119.99 for the 1GB and 512MB cards, respectively.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.