COMDEX - Sony expands Memory Stick platform

Sony is enlisting support in its battle for supremacy in the memory card market. The company, which has been battling alone since the 1998 launch of Memory Stick against formats with wider industry support, demonstrated aat Comdex a selection of products from other manufacturers based on its memory card format.

Sony has signed licensing agreements covering the Memory Stick with 116 companies and about 50 products and prototypes from some of those companies are on display at Comdex this week. They range from a Linux-based personal digital assistant (PDA) from Taiwan's Acer to a car navigation system that reads global positioning system (GPS) data from Memory Stick made by Alpine Electronics.

Getting more support for Memory Stick from other companies is vital for Sony if it wants the format to be more widely used. Until now it has been alone in promoting the format and has managed to carve out a sizable share of the market, but needs the support of others to take the format further, said Ryoji Sato, manager of the Memory Stick promotion planning group at Tokyo-based Sony.

"In the Japanese domestic market, the Memory Stick already has almost 30 per cent market share after SmartMedia and Compact Flash in terms of the number of cards sold," said Sato.

Sony hopes that, by bringing other manufacturers on board, it can increase this share and edge out SmartMedia and Compact Flash for the number one position at home and also head off the advance of recently launched formats such as MultiMediaCard and Secure Digital.

Like the latter two formats, one version of the Memory Stick also includes built-in support for copy protection - something Sato said was being considered for the format from its design days.

Sony now includes support for its own Magic Gate copy protection system in white-colored Memory Stick cards and the basic licence covers not only the card format but also the copy protection system.

Sato said Sony expects to ship a 128MB version of the card early next year and a 1GB version by 2003. With increasing use of the card, the company predicts cumulative shipments of Memory Stick products will hit 100 million in the same year.

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