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Thursday, February 19, 2004
DRM for Sony Memory Sticks

Latest news indicate that electronics giant Sony is planning to make the DRM a standard feature of Memory Stick flash memory cards. The new cards will be available soon and they are intended to replace some of its current Sony cards.

The new card will be available in both the standard and shorter Duo form factor and doesn't have a special brand name but will be distinguishable from the cards it is intended to replace by its colour, according to Sony. It will replace the familiar violet/blue-coloured cards that Sony has sold since it first launched the Memory Stick in 1998 and the MagicGate cards which include DRM but which are priced at a premium over the basic cards, said Aki Shimazu, a Sony spokeswoman.

Unlike the existing DRM-enabled cards, the new Memory Stick is not likely to cost anymore than the current basic cards, said the company. It will be available in four capacities: 32Mb, 64Mb, 128Mb and 256Mb, the latter of which contains two hardware switchable banks of 128Mb of memory.

Prices will range from $30 to $100 (around 17 to 55), which is similar to those for basic cards on sale via the company's Web site.

Compatibility won't be a problem, said the company. It will work in all products that accept Memory Stick, MagicGate Memory Stick and Memory Stick Pro, said Shimazu.

Sony also promises the potential of higher data read speeds with the new card although that is only possible under certain conditions. Products that support basic Memory Stick cards use a serial interface to transfer data between the host device and card and that won't change with the new card.

A new parallel interface can transfer data at about four times the speed of the serial interface although the only hardware compatible with this parallel interface are products that also support the newer Memory Stick Pro media. The data transfer rate increase, which Sony declined to specify, will only be realized when the new cards are used in Memory Stick Pro supporting hardware and even then it will be slower than using the higher-priced Pro media cards.

The increase also only applies to data reading operations. Data writing will be at roughly the same speed irrespective of hardware used, said Sony.

The Memory Stick Pro range of cards that were launched last year already include MagicGate as a standard feature so the launch of the new cards and discontinuation of the existing violet/blue cards will mean that MagicGate is included in all Memory Stick cards sold by Sony.

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