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SanDisk Intros New Flash Products

Las Vegas – Calling it a ‘disruptive technology,’ SanDisk CEO and co-founder Eli Harari outlined his vision of flash memory enjoying a five to ten year unchallenged reign as the removable media of choice for digital cameras, camera cell phones, and other CE portables, at a press conference, here, last week.

He cited steep average sales price drops combined with increasing capacity as the key driver for flash memory adoption in the consumer market.

‘In 2006 it will be a $12 billion market worldwide and camera phones are going to be the big driver,’ Harari said.

The hottest overall category in flash memory is USB flash drives, portable storage devices that connect directly to PC and laptops and store data on internal flash memory. The company announced an expanded lineup of USB flash drivers under its Cruzer line at the press conference.

The Cruzer Titanium is a rugged USB 2.0 flash drive that can withstand one ton of pressure thanks to its titanium metal coating. It offers a write speed rating of 13MB per second and a 15MB per second read speed. A 512MB drive will ship this month for a suggested $199.99 with higher capacities planned for the future.

SanDisk also announced a reduced-sized Cruzer called the Cruzer Micro, which offers USB 2.0 connectivity and is compatible with a new, accessory MP3 player (sold separately). The Cruzer Micro plugs directly into the MP3 Companion to play MP3 music files, the player can distinguish between various files stored on the drive so users can store multiple file types on a single drive.

Cruzer Micro will ship in February in capacities of 128MB, 256MB and 512MB for suggested retail prices of $64.99, $89.99, and $159.99, respectively. The MP3 Companion will ship in March for a suggested $49.99.

In the last of its USB flash drive announcements, SanDisk introduced a 512MB and 1GB Cruzer Mini USB 2.0 drive. The new capacity drives will ship this month for a suggested $149.99 and $299.99, respectively.

Despite leading market share positions in a number of flash card formats, Harari said that SanDisk was lagging in xD and Memory Stick and would make a concerted effort to target those two in 2004.

Toward that end, Nelson Chan, VP and GM, retail business unit, announced that the company became the second besides Sony to manufacture and design its own Memory Stick (including PRO and Duo formats). Chan said the in-house manufacturing will reap competitive advantage for SanDisk in both Memory Stick pricing and capacity in the year ahead. The goal, Chan said, is to bring typically higher-priced Memory stick to within 10 percent, or under, of SD card pricing.

The company introduced a 2GB Memory Stick PRO, currently the highest capacity Memory Stick PRO on the market. It will ship in February for a suggested $999.99. SanDisk-manufactured PRO Duo cards will ship in the first quarter of 2004 in capacities of 256MB ($104.99) and 512MB ($224.99).

The company is also expanding its retail distribution, incorporating drug and food stores and cellular dealers alongside the traditional stable of photo specialty, CE and office dealers, Chan said.