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New Flash Memory Format Bows

Flash memory card formats continue to proliferate thanks to the announcement last week that Olympus and Fujifilm have jointly developed a new flash memory card format, called xD-Picture Card. They claim the new card will sport the smallest form factor of any digital memory card currently on the market, including SD.

Toshiba, which will manufacturer the new card, is the only other manufacturer currently involved with the new format.

The xD-Picture Card, which is road-mapped to reach 8GB capacities, will be available in the fall in 16, 32, 64, and 126MB capacities, with a 256MB card available for the holidays and 1GB and higher capacities in 2003. The format will be priced competitively with comparable SmartMedia cards, or even cheaper, said Sally Smith Clemens, product manager, Olympus.

Olympus and Fujifilm will release new compatible cameras in the fall.

Both companies currently support the SmartMedia format, which has lagged behind both CompactFlash and SD in terms of capacity and compatibility in part because SmartMedia cards don’t feature a built-in controller. Instead, the controller is built into the camera which meant that cameras programmed for one capacity had difficulty reading newer cards with higher capacities (a point which became moot when SmartMedia topped out at 128MB).

The new xD-Picture Card format will not have a built-in controller either. According to Clemens, it allows the cards to be flexible with a larger number of cameras. The companies will make a CompactFlash card adapter for the xD card so that it can be used in a wider range of cameras, Clemens said.

The decision to go with a new format was born, in part, from the inherent capacity limits of SmartMedia. As digital camera resolutions have increased the two companies sought the new format to keep pace.

John Knaur, product manager, Digital Consumer Products Group, Olympus, said that the firm will continue to supply SmartMedia to the market and will have new SmartMedia camera introductions.