Matsushita Electric, SanDisk and Toshiba Agree to Join Forces to Develop and Promote Next Generation Secure Memory Card

(Not sure this has a huge relevance to Digital Photography, but memory storage news always has some impact somewhere down the line...)

Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (NYSE:MC - news), best known by its Panasonic brand name, SanDisk Corporation (NASDAQ:SNDK - news) and Toshiba Corporation have reached an agreement on comprehensive collaboration to jointly develop, specify and widely promote a next generation secure memory card.

The announcement was made today at joint press conferences in Tokyo, Japan, Osaka, Japan and Redwood City, CA. The global market is growing rapidly for flash-memory based removable storage cards. These cards provide a compact, reliable, and easy-to-use medium to store high volumes of visual, audio and other data for digital music players and cameras, personal digital assistants (PDAs), video cameras, cellular phones and other digital consumer electronics products. Several major formats including SmartMedia(TM), CompactFlash(TM) and MultiMediaCard are gaining solid support as leading media to meet these requirements.

In addition to these segments, recent years have seen an increased need for methods to improve copyright protection for artists and other content owners and provide greater data security for users.

The agreement announced today is aimed to jointly develop a small size, high speed read/write next generation memory card capable of providing a high level of copy protection for music, movies and other artistic and commercial content. Each company will aggressively promote development of application products for this card.

The agreement is as follows:

  1. The three companies will collaborate to develop the next generation SD Memory Card, and promote the card to make it widely used in the industry through standardization
  2. The three companies will promote to develop application products in the field of digital AV equipment and digital information network equipment using the SD Memory Card.
  3. The three companies will develop products taking into consideration the copyrights of software creators and content providers.
  4. The three companies will establish a licensing entity which will widely license the SD Memory Card. Both SD Memory Card manufacturers, and equipment producers who manufacture end-user products such as internet music players and cellular phones, will be required to obtain licenses from the licensing entity.

Outline of the SD Memory Card:

Size: 24mm x 32mm x 2.1mm 9 pins 2. Capacity: 32MB, 64MB (2000) / 256MB (2001) 3. Speed: Target: 10MB/sec / 2MB/sec (2000) 4. Features: Powerful security and copy protection (SDMI compliant)

Sampling of the new SD Memory Card will begin in the first quarter of 2000. Production shipments are expected to commence in the second quarter of 2000. It is expected that application products that use the new card will be available in the first half of next year.

Features and advantages of the SD Memory Card include:

  • Unique and proprietary security functions are included in the card's controller which facilitate the secure exchange of content between host devices and the card. The security level has been designed to comply with both current and future SDMI (Secure Digital Music Initiative) portable device requirements.
  • Several flash memory chips can be stacked in the SD Memory Card which will provide higher capacity cards. This will ensure that the cards are capable of storing, for example, full length movies in video and playback systems in the future.
  • Despite the highly desirable small number of pins, the SD Memory Card is designed for exceptionally high read/write performance.
  • A mechanical write protect switch prevents consumers from accidentally overwriting the card and destroying data, images or audio.
  • The SD Memory Card has been ergonomically and electrically improved for its target consumer markets.
  • The new SD Memory Card slots will also accept existing MultiMediaCards.

The three companies expect that CompactFlash(TM) (CF(TM)), SmartMedia(TM) memory cards and MultiMediaCards will continue their popularity in the current and future applications that only require relatively lower levels of security.

``Matsushita Electric and the Panasonic companies are delighted to be a partner in this effort to develop a technology that adds new value and features to the products consumers will use in the home, the workplace and everywhere in between,'' said Mr.Yoichi Morishita, president of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. ``With the progress of recent digital network technology we are confident that the SD Memory Card will become a virtual standard for digital consumer electronics as well as for PC's. With this in mind, we intend to develop and build a new generation of digital consumer electronics devices such as internet music players, digital camcorders and cellular phones which will employ SD Memory Cards.''

Eli Harari, CEO and president of SanDisk, said, ``We are greatly honored to be partners in this very important cooperation with two of the world's leading global corporations in consumer electronics. The sophisticated security of the SD Memory Card will unleash numerous exciting new consumer products and enable mass distribution of copyrighted content as well as e-commerce in a variety of multimedia and wireless/internet applications. The SD Memory Card provides an easy migration path for users of the highly successful MultiMediaCard for new applications requiring a high level of copyright protection and data security.''

Taizo Nishimuro, Toshiba president and CEO, said, ``Toshiba is unfolding a comprehensive strategy to promote removable memory cards, Toshiba's original NAND flash memory chips, and products and systems using the media. We welcome this opportunity to collaborate with Matsushita and SanDisk on the development and promotion of a new medium offering high level security functions, an emerging but increasingly important element in the burgeoning market for silicon media. Toshiba is the leading supplier of SmartMedia, already established as a de facto standard in digital silicon storage, and the SD Card will be a strong addition to our product portfolio, allowing us to expand our new business opportunities.''