RealTime IT News

Sony Finally Embraces SD Storage

On a relative scale, the news isn't earth-shattering. But in its own way, Sony's announcement today that it will support SD/SDHC and MicroSD cards is indeed big news, given the firm's track record.

Sony has for decades marched to its own drummer, and more often than not, failed spectacularly due to one screw up or another. It had the technologically-superior Betamax format but its licensing policies were a huge turn-off and all of the consumer electronics firms went for the inferior VHS.

It came out with the MiniDisc in the early 1990s, a potential replacement for Compact Disc if it wasn't for the fact Sony charged almost $20 for blanks. Later in the decade, the industry consortium around DVD came out with a rewritable format called DVD-RW, but Sony insisted on its own format, called DVD+RW, splitting the market.

Blu-ray DVD was a rare victory. Once again Sony had the superior technology to HD-DVD but this time it got the industry support it failed to garner with Betamax and Toshiba could not handle the war of attrition.

It's been the same in removable storage for consumer devices. While virtually every other consumer electronics maker supported the Secure Digital (SD) card format – developed by Toshiba, Panasonic and SanDisk – Sony has stuck with its Memory Stick format. It's pricer than SD, not open and not usable outside of Sony products.

But today at the Consumer Electronics Show, Sony announced five new SD/SDHC (SD High Capacity) memory cards for digital imaging products, and three new microSD/microSDHC memory cards for mobile phones. All but one are Class 4 cards, which supports up to 4MB/sec transfer rates, making them suitable for high definition recording.

"The new cards will complement Sony's existing Memory Stick line, satisfying the needs of a broader range of users, and strengthening Sony's position as a full line media supplier," said Shane Higby, director of the consumer media business at Sony Electronics, in a statement.

The full line of SD/SDHC and microSD/microSDHC memory cards will ship this month at prices ranging from $14.99 for the 2GB SD card to $159 for the 32GB SDHC card.

It's about time, said Rob Enderle, president of Enderle Group.

"The fact Sony is now embracing SD means they are finally stepping back to reality to say it isn't worth the money to disadvantage our own products because we want to support our own standard. They should bite the bullet and accept the inevitable," he told InternetNews.com.