Toshiba makes adding support for SD cards cheaper

Toshiba has developed a new microcontroller chip for digital audio players and other portable electronics devices, such as digital still cameras, that integrates several functions that previously required separate chips, it announced Monday.

The 16-bit CISC (complex instruction set computer) microcontroller incorporates an SD (Secure Digital) memory card controller and USB (universal serial bus) controller. Previously, if device manufacturers wanted to support the SD card format they had to add an additional chip -- something that adds costs and requires more space.

"The main reason for the development is to aim at the spread of SD cards," said Kenichi Sugiyama, a spokesman for Toshiba. The Japanese electronics company co-developed the SD card format with Sandisk Corp. and Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., and is aggressively pushing the format in competition with Sony Corp.'s Memory Stick.

As electronic music distribution services are becoming popular in Japan, Toshiba expects the demand for memory cards that have built-in copyright protection will increase, said Sugiyama. "We also want to enter the digital still camera market where Smart Media cards dominate," he said.

Samples of the new chip will be available in the fourth quarter this year at US$20. The company will start mass production in the first quarter of next year.

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