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Smaller disks for larger files
Tiny memory card disks head to 2Gb
Miniature hard disks that can be read across different devices and formats are bringing a whole new meaning to portability and enhancing the computing and entertainment experience.

Never before has it been easier to take your music, video, photos and other important files with you and exchange them between phones, cameras, printers, laptops, MP3 players and PDAs.

The majority of phones, cameras and personal organizers now come standard with a solid state memory card slot and the capacity of these postage stamp-sized cards is now up to 2Gb.

While the majority of devices are still being bundled with low end cards these are about to drop out of the market altogether in favour of higher capacity cards. Gartner has estimated that flash memory will represent a global market worth $US 7.7 billion by 2008.  

Price used to be a major impediment to buying into the new miniature disk technology but in the past two years it’s dropped by about 66 per cent and 8-32Mb cards have become passé.

If your laptop, PDA or CD writer doesn’t already have the appropriate slot all you need do is plug in a USB reader ($50-$100) which can handle most flash or solid state memory cards. Typically its plug and play for a Windows 2000 or XP or with Windows 95 a driver is supplied.

Tech Pacific has just taken on the agency for SanDisk the world’s largest manufacturer of memory cards. While the company manufactures CompactFlash, the Panasonic-driven Secure Digital (SD) card, the Sony Memory Stick technology and XD it also competes with them under its own name often at a lower price.

Ingram Micro (Tech Pacific) brand manager Chris Thorley, says most first generation, and the bulk of high end digital cameras, still use CompactFlash. "About two years ago 70 per cent of the camera market was using CompactFlash but now its down to 35 per cent with SD cards at 60 per cent and climbing."

The SD and Memory Stick cards can be used across a range of devices.

In 2000 a 64Mb SD card was $400, a year later it dropped to $270 and is currently $59 and about to disappear off the production line. The new entry level will be 128Mb cards which sell for $79. At the high end 1Gb cards sell for $299 and 2Gb versions for $599. A 1Gb Memory Stick sells for $499 and an 8Gb CompactFlash card is about to be released. Prices are expected to continue trending down.

Another way to approach your data is through a mobile USB disk which is a simple way to move files between computers and may double as an MP3 player. A 128Mb Sandisk USB disk sells for $59. You can plug the disk into an MP3 companion ($149) and hook it to your belt or a sound system when you want to listen to your music.

Imation’s miniature USB 2.0 Swivel Flash ranges in capacity from 128Mb ($99) to 1Gb ($529) with a 2Gb version on the way.  

And for the phone market the cards are downsizing without compromising capacity. New MiniSD and Transflash cards the size of a fingernail are due in the new year. This will enable phone manufacturers to build even smaller devices and the trend is bound to translate to other handheld devices. The smaller cards will come with adapters so they can still fit into standard slots.

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