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Sony Hypes Memory Stick At Comdex

LAS VEGAS -Sony is using the Memory Stick Pavilion at Comdex this week to lay out its 2001 road map for Memory Stick media and show product prototypes, which will include a new 128MB capacity card for next year.

The Memory Stick Pavilion, which is being debuted at Comdex, will feature products from Sony and 53 other companies that are supporting the removable flash-memory format. Sony has not decided whether the pavilion will be used at International CES in January.

Most of the new products on hand are intended for the Japanese market, but Sony is showing a 128MB version of the Memory Stick that will start shipping early in the first quarter of 2001, said Steve Garcia, marketing director for new business development.

The volatile nature of the flash memory market precluded him from stating what the card’s suggested retail price would be, but the current 64MB cards sell for $139.

Sony will follow this release with a 512MB card the following year and a 1GB version by 2003, Garcia said.

On the hardware front, Sony will show working prototypes of Memory Stick-based modules for converting its CLIE handheld PC into a GPS device or to add fingerprint identification capabilities.

The modules are embedded on a Memory Stick and are just plugged into the CLIE. Sony also will show conceptual models of a Bluetooth and digital camera module.

Aiwa, Epson, Kenwood, Pioneer and Ricoh will also show Memory Stick-based products and prototypes. How many of these would make it into the U.S. retail market is not known, but Garcia said the fact that these firms are at Comdex touting their products means support for the format is growing.

Sony does not expect any defections to the Memory Stick format from other consumer electronics or computer vendors now using CompactFlash, SD or SmartMedia, but he thought this could change.

Through a consortium of Taiwan-based chip manufacturers, Sony is trying to make it simpler and cheaper for PC makers to start utilizing Memory Stick.

The Taiwanese companies by mid-2001 will have chips with embedded with Memory Stick capabilities. This will allow any company using these chips to just add a Memory Stick slot and the device will work.

“I hope that by this time next year,” Garcia said, “others will see the progress Memory Stick has made and go with it.”