The first 8 GB removable memory cards for mobile phones will hit the market later this month from SanDisk Corp.
The flash storage card maker is also negotiating with major content providers to preload their offerings, such as maps, on these cards.
"Consumers will instantly have the same amount of storage as the largest-capacity iPhone," Jeff Kost, senior vice president and general manager of the mobile consumer solutions division at SanDisk, said in a statement in August when SanDisk began testing the cards with phone manufacturers and mobile network operators.
A single, high-density card can store more than 2,000 digital songs or five hours of MPEG-4 videos, or more than 5,000 high-resolution pictures. On the business-user front, an 8 GB card can enable faster rendering of PowerPoint slides, Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and business applications such as customer relationship management tools. To date, mobile phones serving up business software have been hobbled by a lack of storage capacity, leading to slow access and a painful user experience.
However, Joe Unsworth, principal analyst at market researcher Gartner Inc. in Stamford, Conn., said he's skeptical about the impact the card will have on businesses. "We don't see that many removable cards being used and paid for by enterprises," he said. "Enterprise applications [require] an awful lot. If you really needed that much, you probably have a notebook or wireless PDA."
The main drawback to SanDisk's 8 GB M2 card is that it's proprietary to Sony Ericsson mobile phones and other Sony products via an adapter. "I don't know the rollout of Sony Ericsson phones in the enterprise, but I would think that [companies] would be more likely on Motorola Qs or handheld PDAs," Unsworth said.
Nevertheless, he said he's impressed with SanDisk's technological achievement. The M2 card is a technological feat: an 8-die stack on a card the size of a fingernail. "Putting eight gigabytes into that form factor is not something anybody can do," Unsworth said, adding that the only other companies in the process of doing this are Samsung and Toshiba.
Preloading exclusive content, such as detailed maps or business applications, onto 8 GB M2 cards would also be quite a coup. To this end, SanDisk spokesman Mike Wong said SanDisk is in talks with some well-known companies, although he declined to reveal their names because negotiations were ongoing and under nondisclosure.
"Content is still key," Unsworth said. "If [SanDisk] had an exclusive relationship with, say, Google or Yahoo Maps or Sony's recording artists, then that can help them differentiate in an otherwise commodity market."
The 8 GB M2 card will be able to store more detailed maps that can lead to location-based services, such as finding the nearest gas stations and restaurants.
While SanDisk won't disclose specific details until the card's official shipping announcement planned around the CTIA Wireless conference in San Francisco this month, Wong said the 8-gigabyte M2 card "will be priced at not more than a couple hundred dollars." The card will be available through various retailers and online outlets worldwide.Tom Kaneshige was a senior features editor for CIO Decisions magazine. To comment on this story, email email@example.com.