TOKYO 16:00: Fujifilm has today announced the new xD Picture Card flash storage media. The xD Picture Card was developed in conjunction with Olympus as the replacement for the aging SmartMedia format. The card will be produced by Toshiba. As mentioned in the Olympus news article below both companies will continue to support the SmartMedia format and will continue to produce SmartMedia cards into the future. The xD format is designed to address the need for smaller sized cameras and higher capacity storage. As I said below I am not that keen to see yet another flash storage format. Note: Fujifilm's press release includes an extensive Q&A section.

Phil: I for one am not keen to see yet another flash storage format thrust upon an unsuspecting market, there are already several more than acceptable formats out there. When I popped this question to Fujifilm their response was that SD/MMC is too expensive as it contains a controller chip, the new xD cards are 'dumb' like SmartMedia, the controller chip must be inside the camera. Fujifilm and Olympus do have a large combined market share to get away with this but that doesn't mean it's going to be welcomed with open arms.

Press release:

Fujifilm introduces the xD-Picture Card - ultra-compact, high capacity flash memory format for digital cameras

Meeting the ever-increasing need for digital camera image storage, the new xD-Picture Card offers fast read/write speeds, low power consumption and potential for up to 8GB capacity. xD-Picture Card will co-exist alongside SmartMedia™ as key storage media for the Fujifilm digital camera range.

30 July 2002: Fujifilm and Olympus have today joined forces to announce the xD-Picture Card, a new memory card for digital cameras that delivers high capacity storage at an economical price. With its small physical size, the xD-Picture Card will enable consumers to benefit from more compact and innovative camera designs.

The name 'xD-Picture Card' was inspired by 'eXtreme Digital', suggesting the power of this new memory card for recording, storing and transporting audio-visual information.

SmartMedia™ has the greatest percentage share (40%) of worldwide digital camera storage, and is widely used in Fujifilm and Olympus digital cameras as well as other electronic devices. SmartMedia has earned a reputation for outstanding portability, compatibility with personal computers, and cost performance - firmly establishing it as a memory device standard. Fujifilm will continue to offer SmartMedia as the memory card for many of its cameras, including the recently launched FinePix F401 Zoom and much-awarded FinePix F601 Zoom.

The Fujifilm xD-Picture Card responds to consumer demand by offering the smallest storage format of its kind on the market, with very fast data transfer rates. It uses less power than comparable storage options and has a potential for up to 8GB storage capacity. This will allow Fujifilm and other manufacturers of digital cameras, and possibly other devices like personal digital assistants and MP3 players, to produce hardware with faster recording capabilities and sleeker designs. Fujifilm will soon announce its first digital cameras compatible with the
xD-Picture Card format.

The new format addresses the capacity limitations of existing media. Storage is increasingly an issue as image file sizes - even those produced by consumer digital cameras - become steadily larger. Fujifilm's 3rd Generation Super CCD makes is possible for a digital stills camera to also record full motion video (640 x 480 at 30 frames per second). This functionality requires high speed transfer rates and high capacity storage capability.

Adrian Clarke, Director of Consumer Products, Fuji Photo Film (UK) Ltd, said, "The xD-Picture Card has been designed to exploit leading-edge technologies in memory capacity, transfer speeds and reliability to deliver a robust storage format in a very compact package."

The xD-Picture Card's principal benefits include:

  • Capacity: At launch, Fujifilm xD-Picture Cards will have 16MB, 32MB and 64MB, then 128MB capacities in September, with a 256MB card in December. The media's development roadmap shows storage capacity potential of up to 8GB.
     
  • Dimensions: 20mm x 25mm x 1.7mm (0.8 x 1.0 x 0.07 inches). This size makes the xD-Picture Card the smallest memory card available.
     
  • Read/Write Speeds: The xD-Picture Card will have one of the fastest read/write speeds on the market. A 16MB or 32MB card can record data at 1.3MB/sec. A 64MB card or higher can record data at 3MB/sec and both offer a read speed of 5MB/sec. These high speeds can greatly enhance the user's experience with a product. For example, a photographer can take new pictures or view existing images more quickly with the xD-Picture Card media than with other, slower media formats.
     
  • Power Consumption: The xD-Picture Card was designed to use minimal power. Users will benefit from the convenience and savings of longer battery life on a single charge.
     
  • Compatibility: Adaptors make xD-Picture Cards compatible with other media. A PC card adaptor and a USB card reader will be available for the x D Picture Card at the time of launch. A CompactFlash™ adaptor will be available later.
     
  • Branding: Fujifilm, Olympus. Both development partners will offer individually branded xD-Picture Cards at launch but the technology will be made available to other companies.

Availability

xD-Picture Cards will be released in August 2002 in capacities of 16, 32, 64 and then 128MB in September. A larger capacity 256MB card will be offered in December. Cards of 512MB, 1GB and larger will be available from 2003.

In August 2002, a USB card reader (xD-Picture Card and SmartMedia, dual slot) and PCMCIA (PC Card) card adaptor (xD-Picture Card and SmartMedia, dual slot) will be available. A CompactFlash card adaptor will be available soon.

Cameras featuring xD-Picture Card compatibility will be announced for the autumn and Christmas seasons, with camera announcements in August 2002.

Pricing

Pricing for xD-Picture Cards and accessories will be similar to SmartMedia.

Q&A:

Development of the xD-Picture Card Ultra-Compact Digital Camera Memory Media

QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS

Q: What does 'xD' actually mean?
A: It was inspired by 'eXtreme digital', suggesting the excellence of this new memory media for recording, storing and transporting audiovisual information.

Q: What is the rationale for this new format?
A: There is a consumer demand for greater memory capacity, as well as the development of smaller and more innovative digital camera designs. Also, speed of storage is increasingly an issue as large image files and movie files become more and more common.

Q: Which companies were involved in the development of the xD-Picture Card?
A: The card format was jointly developed by Fujifilm and Olympus.

Q: Will Fujifilm cameras accept Olympus xD-Picture Cards, and vice versa?
A: Yes, but the use of the original equipment manufacturer's cards are recommended to ensure total support.

Q: Who will manufacture the xD-Picture Cards?
A: Initially, the production of the media will be by Toshiba Corporation.

Q: What will be the availability of the media?
A: xD-Picture Cards will be available in all regions where Fujifilm and Olympus digital cameras are sold.

Q: What sizes of xD-Picture Card will be available at launch?
A: Capacities of 16MB, 32MB and 64MB will be available at the launch of the format, and the first cameras to accept the media will be announced soon.

Q: What about larger capacities?
A: There are plans to offer cards up to 8GB in capacity. 128MB cards will be available in September, and 256MB cards are planned for introduction in December 2002 with larger capacities (512MB, 1GB, 2GB and larger) appearing progressively from 2003.

Q: How big is an xD-Picture Card?
A: Cards are an ultra-compact 20 x 25 x 1.7mm in size. With a volume of 0.85cc and a weight of 2g, the xD-Picture Card boasts the smallest form factor of any digital memory card, making it exceptionally portable and convenient. The miniature size of the new Card will enable development of even smaller digital cameras.

Q: What accessories will be available to support the launch of xD-Picture Cards?
A: At launch, PC (PCMCIA) card adaptors and USB card readers will be available. A CompactFlash™ adaptor is in development that will allow the use of xD-Picture Cards in cameras designed to use CompactFlash media.

Q: Are there any plans to produce a Floppy Disk adaptor for xD-Picture Cards?
A: No. The floppy disk drive is becoming less popular, therefore it was not considered appropriate to provide an adaptor to support this format.

Q: Can the xD-Picture Card be used in cameras designed to accept SmartMedia™ cards?
A: No. Form factors mean that compatibility between the xD-Picture Card and SmartMedia-compatible cameras is not possible.

Q: Can xD-Picture Cards be used in other digital devices?
A: Though notionally designed and optimised for image storage, there are plans to adapt the new media for PDAs, audio players and other IT appliances.

Q: Do xD-Picture Cards feature ID copy protection in the same way as SmartMedia cards?
A: Yes.

Q: Can xD-Picture Cards be used to store music and movie data?
A: Cards are fully usable for both movies and music, and as they include an ID, they can be encoded for copy protection.

Q: Can the new cards be used with mobile telephones?
A: There are no indications of such use at present.

Q: Why is there no write-protect feature?
A: Research into other media has shown that write-protect is very rarely used. Also a greater degree of PC compatibility can be achieved by removing it.

Q: What is the expected life of the Cards?
A: Lifecycles will vary according to how the Cards are used, but under normal circumstances, there is no reason for concern about the lifecycle.

Q: Will the Cards be offered under the Toshiba brand?
A: This is to be confirmed.

Q: Does the consignment manufacturer, Toshiba, plan to release an xD-Picture Card compatible digital camera?
A: This is to be confirmed.

Q: Will the cards be compatible with Toshiba PDAs?
A: This is to be confirmed.

Q: Who holds the trademark for the new xD-Picture Card?
A: The xD-Picture Card trademark is held by Fujifilm, Olympus and Toshiba.

Q: Given that the metal contacts on the Cards protrude in the same manner as those in SmartMedia cards, are there any reliability issues?
A: We do not anticipate problems under normal use. Contacts should be cleaned with a soft cloth if they become soiled or damp.

Q: Both Fujifilm and Olympus are members of the SSFDC Forum that monitors and determines advances in SmartMedia technology. Does the release of the xD-Picture Card mean they will withdraw?
A: No. Both companies will remain as central members of the Forum, with on-going large-scale sales and support of the SmartMedia format.

Q: Do Fujifilm and Olympus plan a similar forum or consortium built around the xD-Picture Card format?
A: No forum-type organisation is envisaged, but an integrated, cooperative arrangement for addressing compatibility, marketing and development issues is currently being investigated.

Q: Will only Fujifilm and Olympus market the xD-Picture Card?
A: Fujifilm and Olympus will be the first two companies to market the media but a wide range of other digital camera manufacturers have been invited to join them.

Q: When will the cameras accepting xD-Picture Cards be available?
A: xD-Picture Cards will be in wide distribution to support the launch of the new xD-compatible camera range in September.

Q: Will sales of SmartMedia cards continue?
A: Yes. Fujifilm will continue to sell SmartMedia cards. Indeed, several new cameras in Fujifilm's Christmas and 2003 range (including the FinePix F601 and the new FinePix F401) will be SmartMedia compatible.

Q: What is the current market share of SmartMedia cards?
A: SmartMedia cards account for around 40% of the current worldwide market, the largest share of any format.

Q: What is the likely compatibility of xD-Picture Cards with Fujifilm Digital Imaging (FDi) printing equipment and services?
A: It is expected that Fujifilm FDi printing systems will be made compatible. Requests will be made that other manufacturers' equipment is also made compatible. Existing Fujifilm products such as the SmartPix and SmartPix Mini will be compatible using one of the announced adaptors.

Q: How will the price of the new Cards compare with those of SmartMedia cards?
A: Prices are expected to be similar to SmartMedia.