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SanDisk Enters “Key Chain” USB Drive Market

Sunnyvale, Calif. — SanDisk announced today that it is entering the USB flash drive market with the introduction of the Cruzer Mini.

The Cruzer Mini is an embedded USB 2.0 flash drive about the size of a lipstick case. It is already shipping to major retailers in North America with broader distribution beginning in August. It will initially be available in two capacities: 128MB and 256MB with suggested retail prices of $49.99 and $79.99, respectively.

SanDisk plans to introduce higher capacity Cruzer Minis later this year.

The Mini will ship with three decorative end-caps that fit over a ‘light-pipe’ status indicator and the USB connector, allowing consumers to dress the drive to suit their fashion.

‘As USB flash drives become more commonplace in the market, industrial design will help differentiate the products,’ said Eric Bone, retail product marketing manager, SanDisk.

‘We are trying to address the sweet spot of the market with these two capacities,’ Bone said. ‘We think that this pricing will drive customers to higher capacity flash drives.’

While other flash memory manufacturers had jumped on the USB drive market early, SanDisk initially offered a twist from the straight embedded-memory USB drive with its original Cruzer, a USB drive that used removable SD memory rather than embedded flash.

The benefit, according to a SanDisk spokesman, was that the product was easily upgradeable using higher capacity SD cards, and could transfer images from devices that accepted SD memory easier. The downside was a larger form factor to accommodate the SD card and higher retail prices for comparable capacity embedded drives.

SanDisk will continue to sell the original Cruzer along with the new Cruzer Mini.

According to the research firm NPD Group, U.S. retail sales of USB flash drives reached 171,000 units this past May. Retail unit sales have been growing at a rate of more than 20 percent a month this year, according to NPD.