Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. on Friday unveiled a new SD Memory Card that doubles as a smart card, allowing consumers to use the product as a wallet or a train ticket, as well as to store music and pictures.
With the smartSD Card to be released next fall, the consumer electronics giant is going head-to-head with Sony Corp., which has already launched the FeliCa smart card and the flash memory Memory Stick.
The smartSD Card can be used to store music, pictures and other digital data as flash memory.
The new card also serves as a contactless smart card. Matsushita said it expects the card to be used as an identification card, wallet and train ticket.
Smart cards are rapidly gaining popularity in Japan; Sony’s FeliCa has been adopted as a train ticket on East Japan Railway Co. trains. NTT DoCoMo Inc. has released handsets with built-in FeliCa functions.
By adding new functions, Matsushita hopes to expand SD Cards’ dominance of the flash memory market, where several different formats have been vying to be the de facto standard.
These stamp-size silicon memory units are used as removable data storage devices for camera-equipped cell phones and digital cameras.
SD, jointly developed by Matsushita, SanDisk Corp. of the United States and Toshiba Corp., has become the market leader, surpassing Sony’s Memory Stick.
SD had a domestic market share of 52 percent in August, while Memory Stick held 15 percent, according to GfK Marketing Services Japan Ltd., which tracks sales data at electric appliance stores.
Only two years earlier, SD had a share of 15 percent and Memory Stick 19 percent.
The SD camp has successfully persuaded a large number of consumer electronics makers to adopt the format for their products, such as digital cameras and cell phone handsets.
To catch up with its rival, Sony recently announced the latest version of the Memory Stick, which boasts a 2-gigabyte memory capacity — double the SD’s maximum — and fast reading and writing speed.
Sony officials said the 2GB memory allows users to store some 770 pictures taken by a 5-megapixel digital camera
The firm said worldwide shipments of the Memory Stick, including those made by the other makers, will be some 48 million units for the current fiscal year, up from 31 million a year earlier.
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