Memory stick to replace diskette

Sony believes its Memory Sticks will supersede diskettes as the next generation in digital data storage, writes Caroline Davis.

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Sony believes its Memory Sticks will supersede diskettes as the next generation in digital data storage, writes Caroline Davis.

Sony announced at CeBIT last month that it now has 46 companies signed up to license the Memory Stick specification including Compaq and Palm.

The company expects the Memory Stick to become "the key transfer media of digital contents in the digital network world". A Sony spokesman explains, "Our main strategy is convergence, the sharing of information."

Sony is using Memory Sticks in some of its digital cameras and Walkmans. But devices such as PCs and PDAs could soon be using the technology.

"Memory Sticks have potential as a universal storage medium across platforms," says Ted Clark, vice- president of Compaq's iAppliances Division. "It is one of the promising technologies for the latter half of this year."

Memory sticks were launched in 1998. Smaller than a stick of chewing gum, they can currently store up to 64 Mbytes of data. Sony is already working on a 256 Mbyte version.

Chris Jones, senior analyst at Canalys, thinks that Sony faces a challenge to break out of the consumer market. "At the moment, Sony is a consumer brand. But the form factor and product size are favourable," he says.

While Sony attempts to establish Memory Sticks as a diskette replacement, Matsushita Electric, San Disk and Toshiba are developing a rival standard for digital memory cards. The three companies have joined forces to develop a Secure Digital (SD) memory card as a universal standard which will compete with Sony's proprietary Memory Stick.

The competing technologies could lead to a standards war. Richard Gordon, senior analyst at Gartner says, "This is a kind of Betamax versus VHS question. The market hasn't decided which standard to follow yet."

Sony Memory Stick

Weight: 4g

Size: 21.5 x 50 x 2.8mm

Cost: about £130 for 64 Mbytes

Storage capacity: Currently 64 Mbytes - 128 Mbytes by the end of the year, 256 Mbytes next year

Competing products: Solid State Floppy Disc Card (SSFDC), SanDisk's Compactflash



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