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Memory Stick logo. Courtesy of the memorystick.com Business Center. Sony Memory Stick Partners Forum Report!
(Tuesday, June 4, 2002 - 00:05 EDT)

Tiny "Duo" cards nearing market; read-only and write-once cards on the way...

Sony Corp. has today reported on its second annual Memory Stick Partners Forum, attended by numerous companies supporting its Memory Stick media format. 47 companies had Memory Stick products on display, and the forum provided a venue for all involved to exchange information as to their plans for the media.

On display at the forum was Sony's Memory Stick Duo, slated for introduction in a 16MB capacity next month. We first told you about Memory Stick Duo as long ago as April 14th, 2000 - and at that time Sony was predicting the cards would begin shipping in the first quarter of 2001. Duo cards will have about 1/3 the size of regular Memory Sticks, half the weight, and will be backward-compatible with traditional Memory Stick products through the use of an adapter. This is more to allow the cards to be read in standard Memory Stick slots for card readers, desktop PCs and the suchlike, than to allow existing digicams etc. to use the Duo sticks. Duo's small size and weight comes at a higher cost than standard Sticks and the cards will be available in much smaller capacities. To see what we mean, consider that the 16MB Duo is only just about to ship, whilst 128MB Memory Sticks are readily available.

For size and weight, Duo looks fairly competitive with competing products. SmartMedia and SD cards are the same weight, but 25 - 50% larger by volume respectively; only MultiMediaCards are a close rival - 8% larger by volume, but lighter by 1/2 a gram. 64MB Duo cards are planned, but with 16MB being the only size the company mentions it is to ship at launch, and much larger 128MB cards available in rival formats (256MB Secure Digital cards should be shipping soon), it is obvious that the year's delay to Duo's release means that Sony is playing catch-up for capacities.

Also discussed at the Forum was Sony's plans for Memory Stick-ROM - a variant of the Memory Stick format which is pre-written with information at the factory. This was first described at last year's Forum, and is not yet available on the market, although 8MB cards are ready for mass-production; targetted uses would be for example music sold for portable audio players, or programs for handheld computers. More appropriate to digital camera users is the newly-announced Memory Stick-R - a write once format that would be much cheaper than traditional rewriteable flash. How you stand on Memory Stick-R (which has equivalents planned in competing formats) depends on the way you use your camera - it does have advantages (price per card, the fact that your images cannot be accidentally erased) - but it has downsides too (you can't change your mind and erase images to free up space on a card if you run out; you're once again tied to a "film-like" model of buying consumables to be able to take your photos).

Sony noted at the forum that it has now sold more than 20 million Memory Sticks worldwide, and an equal number of compatible products. (An interesting statistic, but don't misread it to mean that most users have only one Stick - remember that these products will include such things as Memory Stick readers and the suchlike, and that many people owning Memory Sticks will also own multiple products that can use them). Of the Memory Sticks sold in 2001, 20% were the MagicGate type which includes built-in copy protection, commonly used by devices like MP3 players.

Thanks to our friends at LetsGoDigital.nl for letting us know that this report had been published...

Source: Sony Corp.

Original Source Press Release:

Monday, June 3, 2002, Tokyo, Japan - "Memory Stick" IC recording media supporting companies today gathered at the Memory Stick Partners Forum. It was the second time to hold the Forum, and the participants included hardware manufacturers, software developers, service providers, telecommunications operators, content holders, and component makers (number of Memory Stick supporting companies: total 246 as of May 31, 2002.) The objective of the Forum was to give participants an opportunity to exchange the latest information about Memory Stick technology in order to deepen technical and business knowledge of Memory Stick's easy use and power to link a wide variety of electronic products.

At the forum, the supporting companies shared information about their current Memory Stick business situation, their Memory Stick road maps, promotion plans and relevant technological information such as application solutions and compatibility verification. Forty-seven of the supporting companies exhibited Memory Stick compliant products during the Forum.

One of the Memory Stick Forum's highlights was a new 16MB multi-purposed "Memory Stick Duo" IC recording media currently scheduled for market introduction in July 2002. Taking full advantage of its compact size and thin structure, the Memory Stick Duo is well suited for a wide range of popular consumer products such as cellular phones and compact audio players. In addition, content recorded on the Memory Stick Duo can be played back on a variety of standard Memory Stick products by using a Memory Stick Duo adapter. The Memory Stick Duo is approximately one third the size of the dimensions and a half the weight of a standard Memory Stick. While further popularizing the concept of Memory Stick's networking world by its compatibility with standard Memory Stick products (using an adapter), the Memory Stick Duo indicates the next phase of Memory Stick development by offering a flash memory recording media for ultra small portable devices.

Future new Memory Stick products also include the "Memory Stick-ROM" which has been designed as a future package media for music, image contents and other data. By adopting the mask ROM process, it will be possible to commercialize "Memory Stick-ROM" at a lower cost to regular Memory Stick. A 8MB Memory Stick-ROM is ready for mass production.

Also announced during the Forum was the introduction of a new application tentatively called "Memory Stick-R" which will further expand Memory Stick's networking world. In a natural expansion of standard Memory Stick technology, "Memory Stick-R" is being positioned to offer reasonably priced, write-once media, which will enhance the relationship between content storage and Memory Stick. The new reasonably priced, easy-to-use storage application can further develop the content business by making it more attractive to users.

Since its market introduction in September 1998, Memory Stick has evolved from a storage media for recording picture images and/or computer data to a broad networking media used for network services such as the Internet, telecommunication and multimedia Kiosks, etc. Cumulative shipments of Memory Stick worldwide in March 2002 have reached 20 million, and worldwide cumulative shipments of Memory Stick compliant products have also reached 20 million units at the end of March 2002. It took approximately three years to achieve the first 10 million shipments of Memory Stick, however in the last 12 months sales of Memory Stick have reached additional 10 million shipments. This reflects a rapid growth in Memory Stick and Memory Stick compliant products (especially audio products incorporated a copyright protection technology "MagicGate") and a growing momentum among Memory Stick Partners. Incidentally 20% of total Memory Stick sale in fiscal year 2001 attributes to "MagicGate" copyright protected Memory Stick.

Memory Stick compliance is expected to be adopted in even more product categories over next few years to meet growing consumer needs. Cumulative shipments of Memory Stick are expected to reach 60 million in year 2003 and 120 million in year 2004. In parallel, cumulative shipments of memory Stick compliant products are expected to reach 100 million respectively in year 2004.

The companies that support Memory Stick aim to strengthen their relationship in order to further develop and promote Memory Stick and its various applications, as a platform to link people with a wide range of content and services in the coming ubiquitous networking era.


Memory Stick Shipment. Courtesy of Sony Corp.
Memory Stick Compliant Product Shipment. Courtesy of Sony Corp.
Memory Stick Shipment Segment by Region. Courtesy of Sony Corp.

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