Sony unveils Memory Stick Duo, finds new licensees

Sony Corp. plans to release a new generation of its Memory Stick Duo flash memory card in July, the company announced at its second annual Memory Stick Partners Forum in Tokyo Monday.

The new Memory Stick Duo card is about one-third the size and one-half the weight of a standard Memory Stick, which is already smaller than other memory cards, such as SD (Secure Digital) cards and Multimedia Card, said Masaharu Yanaga, senior general manager of Sony's Memory Stick division.

The company is initially targeting the 16M-byte product at mobile phones, as NTT DoCoMo Inc. is expected to release a combined digital still camera/mobile phone fitted with a Memory Stick Duo slot in July, according to Kunitake Ando, Sony's president and chief operating officer.

Sony did not disclose the price of Memory Stick Duo. It will come with an adapter, which makes the product compatible with a standard Memory Stick slot, it will therefore cost slightly more than the standard type, Yanaga said. The 16M-byte standard Memory Stick is currently sold for around ¥1,700 (US$14) in Tokyo.

The July release is only for Japan, the company has not decided on the overseas launch, Yanaga said.

Although 246 companies are listed as Memory Stick supporting companies as of May 31, not many vendors other than Sony have released Memory Stick-related products so far. About two-thirds of currently available Memory Stick-related products are produced by Sony.

"Since it was first introduced (in 1998), we wanted Memory Stick to be not only a storage medium but a business tool, which can include technologies such as an authentication system and GPS (global positioning system)," Ando said. "It took five to six years, but that original idea is finally coming true now. From this year on, many Memory Stick-compatible products will be unveiled by vendors other than Sony."

At the forum, Sony Computer Entertainment Inc. (SCEI) suggested that its PlayStation 2 game console will start supporting Memory Stick in the near future. "SCEI expressed its interest in Memory Stick for the first time today, " Sony's Yanaga said. "Although SCEI is one of our affiliate companies, they didn't show any interest in our approach until now."

Three other vendors made Memory Stick related product announcements at the forum.

Hitachi Ltd. has licensed Sony's MagicGate technology, which provides encryption and authentication for Memory Stick products for use in customized chips. It plans to mass produce its SH-Mobile chip, an application processor to enable audio and moving images on 3G (third-generation) mobile phones, in March 2003, a Hitachi statement said.

South Korea's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. will add a Memory Stick slot to several of its DVD player, portable video recorder and notebook PC product lines worldwide, said Masaki Oguro, a Samsung vice president.

Japanese PC maker Sotec Co. Ltd. will support Memory Stick as a standard interface for all of its products, starting by shipping two new desktop PC models this month, the company said. It also plans to release peripherals, such as MP3 players, digital still cameras, LCD (liquid crystal display) televisions, PDAs (personal digital assistants) and tablet PCs, Sotec President Soichi Obe, said.