back to article Flash memory makers propose common card

Nokia said today it is collaborating with several of its rivals to create a common Flash memory card format. First virtual machines, now Flash, what is the world coming to? The proposed specification is being backed by Nokia, Samsung, Sony Ericsson, Micron Technology, Spansion, MTMicroelectronics and Texas Instruments. The …


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  1. Adam Azarchs

    This seems unnecessary

    We can't really have a single format. MicroSD, SD, and CF form factors each have places where they're appropriate. CF is needed for pro cameras which need many gigabytes of storage which would be too expensive in an SD form factor. Likewise, MicroSD is needed for some devices too small to support the SD form factor. On could of course substitute Memory Stick or xD for SD, if one wanted to be a market-contrarian.

    My point is that there is a place for more than one format. The current set is way too big, yes, but there's little or no reason why we can't just all settle on one of the existing ones. A new format will be just that - a new format - until every device currently out there using CF, SD, and so on is replaced. So why make things worse when we don't have to?

  2. Ryan Stewart

    im with ya

    Just make the CF for the professionals and let everyone else use SD. Its already very prevalent, has versions for different size devices (and you can get an SD card that takes the micro), and more importantly, my laptop and camera already take standard SD cards.

    Just get a few formats and make everyone work on getting them cheaper.

  3. Lance


    In some ways this is a good idea and others bad. Hopefully they go further than just the format factor and look at the file system as well. FAT needs to go away; it has served its purpose and now like the various form factors need to be replaced. ZFS anyone? This would make it easy to add on to the existing flash in the phone and make it appear as one disk.

  4. Bas Scheffers

    No more filesystems!

    Lance, ZFS is not the answer: the file system needs to go away completely. Having the host (ie: camera, phone, PC) control the filesystem is retarded and as long as that is the case, the lowest common denominator filesystem needs to be used and that means one supported by Windows 98 and up. Yup, FAT.

    What cards should have is a USB interface that does not use Mass Storage Class. Instead, it just needs to have a protocol that says: "store this stream", "list what you have on there", "give me n bytes from x", etc. How that is implemented on the card is up to the card's manufacturer. Low end cards may have a very simple mechanism while those targeted at pros might have much more CPU power on board and store everything with lightening speed in a fully transactional Berkeley DB.

    But I doubt that is what UFS will be. Probably just another retarded piece of memory used to store and corrupt a FAT file system controlled by the host...

  5. Tim Bates


    No more new flash formats, damn it!

    I agree with Ryan... CF for larger devices and SD and mini or micro SD for smaller devices (probably micro since it's smaller).

    There's no need for a new common standard. Perhaps we should all email Nokia and friends to tell them what we think as tech consumers.

  6. b166er

    My compliments to the chef

    Top marks for the smorgasbord/clusterfuck combination. Two of my favourite nouns ;)

  7. John Benson

    another victory for courageous journalism

    It's the courage to describe IT phenomena as "clusterfucks" that validates The Register as a radical, happening web destination with its finger on the pulse of hip youth culture. When I encounter quality, bleeding-edge reportage like this I feel sorry for the Reg reporters who will soon be consigned to the dustbin of neo-Victorian repression if they can't like, you know, get with it.

  8. Bryan Seigneur

    Haha, Bas

    I'd prefer to have block access to the thing if I want it. You're funny: Replace the bad chosen fs with another hardware io spec. Hah! I don't know who you work for, but they should be worried about you. The previous poster intimated that FAT sucks. FAT12 and FAT16 do suck. FAT32 is ok.

    Anyway, here's the point about having block access: you can put any fs on there you want!

    NTFS, ext3, whatever you dang feel like. Getting every device you might plug it into to have a driver for your favorite fs, that's your problem. FAT32 is a good tradeoff there. But no one ever said "flash drives shall be FAT". It was chosen as a good compromise.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why bother?

    What's the betting that, if this goes ahead, that within a year we'll have forks of the basic format: MicroUFS, UFSHD, etc?

    And I notice that Sandisk isn't on the list of vendors given, so I wouldn't bet against them coming out with THEIR new format to go up against UFS.

    If the vendors want to do something to assist the consumer then, like most of the current postings, I'd go with standardising on CF, SDHD and maybe a micro version of SDHD. I never saw the point of the Memory Stick (in whatever variant) and xD, and as for the other formats named ... they've got to be niche products that should die off.

    If there's a need for a new logical storage format - to replace FAT - especially for the larger and larger capacity cards, then what's wrong with ext2? I know this makes me sound like a Linux fanboi, but surely it's free of the taint of possible patent/licensing issues that would be the case with FAT32 etc. It's also pretty stable and there's a lot of driver code out there for it.

  10. Neil Hoskins


    You missed out micro SDHC.

  11. Greg

    To me, SD *is* the standard

    I've always though of SD cards as being the standard, along with their mini and micro variants, and all these other stupid xDMicroPiThingyWhoosaWhotsis to be just pointless proprietary additions to the market, apart from maybe CF as described above. I mean, what is the chuffin' point of all these different formats? I refuse to buy a camera/phone/anything that doesn't support SD, CF or an SD variant. It means I can transfer cards around at will. It also makes taking cards away from home easier - every card reader out there will do SD, but if you're using xD, you'll find it a damn sight harder.

    We all knew that Sony were going to make their own version. (Those daft ones used in the PSP.) That's what they do. But we weren't expecting everyone else to do the same!

    Someone will now come along and tell me that SD wasn't the first out there. And I still won't care.

  12. Ben W

    RE: "This seems unnecessary"

    The fact that I got bored reading your first paragraph seems to be enough reason on its own! hehe

    Lets face it one quick quality interchangeable card would be excelent, (everyone who says it wouldn't is either lying, confused or a moron.) But unfortunatley its never going to happen, getting large companies to agree on the day of the week's hard enough.

    A regulatory force with lots and lots of clout would be needed to impose co-operation.

  13. Karl Lattimer

    Small correction

    You say the cards aren't interchangeable, however SD/MMC card readers generally will read each others cards because the chips have support for both, I'm pretty sure that most cameras and definitely my n800 will do both.

  14. Steve

    I blame Sony...

    I mean really, what's the difference between MemoryStick Duo Pro and Memory Stick Pro Duo? Other than the fact that means they can have another, incompatible, card format when they next release a consumer electronic item, and royally screw the customer.

  15. leslie

    we do need it

    No we do need a new universal card, it should be universal in that it should have its own new connector, but be able to fit into a 'jacket' so it can emulate other flash devices and the app file system.

    In its native form it can be its new all singing all dancing super fast self, but shove it in a little plastic jacket and its smart media, change its jacket and its MS, one size then fits all, give it USB too.

    What I cant understand when I trawl ebay is why I cant buy a little box, with a 40 way connector, that I can drop a few gb of ram in that emulates a dvd, hell that would make testing so much faster that writing dvd r/w etc.

  16. Phil


    So now we'll have a different card for mobiles by the look of that list.

    What use is it to me if all mobiles take the same card, that doesn't fit in my laptop/pc/camera? I've only got one mobile!

    And what the hell are sony up to? Stupid memory stick. People at work with Sony laptops keep complaining how they've got a card reader in their vaio etc. but can't use it for anything!

    I join the SD/CF group!

  17. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    No SanDisk?

    Aren't SanDisk sort of a big deal in this market? Might be a good idea to get them on-board.

  18. Alastair Dodd

    Won't work

    As Sony will always want their own format, thereby screwing everything up.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    The obvious filesystem for UFS cards

    is, errr, UFS?

  20. Simon Ball


    It's never going to workas long as you have awkward bastards like Sony and Fujifilm/Olympus releasing proprietary formats for their own devices, when there are perfectly adequate "open" formats already available. The SD-family is perfectly adequate for the vast majority of portable consumer devices. We do not need yet another format.

  21. JeffyPooh


    Even if it all goes perfectly, it'll be obsoleted for some unexpected (but perfectly predictable) reason with two years. "We thought 128GB of address space would be enough for anyone. We didn't expect HD video would become so popular..." Duh...

  22. daniel

    The one universal flash connector

    Universal Serial Bus flash thumb drives....

    Sony already makes a flash thumb drive smaller than an SD card (see for photos and write-up) Who needs anything else?


    just 1.5 grams each.

    They'll be offering 256MB, 512MB, 1GB, and 2GB varieties in a range of vibrant colors. The Sony Pocket Minis measure 14.5 x 32 x 2.7mm




  23. Dale Harrison


    Always reminds me of that phrase...

    "I know, I've got a great idea. We'll come up with another totally new standard <insert-product/interface-here>"

  24. Tom Hawkins

    "Who needs anything else"?

    Err, anyone who doesn't fancy paying Sony prices for flash memory? They're about twice the price of an ordinary Sandisk USB stick or SD card, as far as I can see...

  25. Alex

    Stupid Sony ??

    Even the new Vaios come with an SD slot.... (plus the obligatory slot for dodgy memory sticks).

    And when Sony finally gives in and backs someone elses format then that format MUST be the standard :-)

  26. Greg Woods

    Just ban xD and MemoryStick

    I HATE Olympus/Fuji and Sony for creating their own formats. i have even boycotted all Sony products for that single reason. (I'd like to say i'd boycotted Olympus as well, but the xD's have come down in price, and the Oly SP550 is an awesome camera - but the reality is, I have double standards).

    Ban these 2 formats, and left on the battlefield are CF - huge capacities, and cheap; and SD (plus miniSD and microSD) which are small and cheap. (Maybe we need to ditch miniSD as well)

  27. Matthew

    I'm with Greg

    I too chose to standardise with SD cards. I specifically chose a camera, laptop, PDA and phone that support SD. I bought my SD cards a while back so there's a considerable investment (I know they're sold for peanuts now but I'm going to get my money's worth). If it doesn't support SD, I don't buy it!

    Really we are all just waiting for the inevitable market consolidation as the less popular formats go by the wayside. I won't be buying a new format unless it offers a significant improvement over what I have *and* is sufficiently cheap that I don't mind replacing perfectly good equipment.

  28. Paul

    Not again...

    We need, at most, 3 form factors:

    CF (and microdrive, the CF slot ones, not the dodgy old Sinclair things) for the big capacities and really high speeds needed for high-end pro digital cameras and other posh gear.

    SD for normal-sized consumer/prosumer level devices.

    One of the really-small-form-factor SD variants (I say just choose the current smallest one, whatever it is this week) for devices like cellphones, where compact form factor matters more than capacity or speed.

    You can get adapters to plug an SD card into a CF slot, and adapters to plug the small form factor SD cards into SD slots, so make CF the standard if you're going to build a PC with an integral card reader. The other two formats can plug into it with suitable adapters.

    Everything else should go the way of SmartMedia, and soon, with Memory Stick and xD first against the wall.

  29. Andy S


    these two were the standard, up until every man and his dog decided that they could do it better.

    I don't mind the different size of cards, as long as the smaller size can be upscaled. But all of the different types are maddening, i currently have something like a 50 in one memory card reader in my pc's bay and that still won't accept xd cards, especially annoying as my entire range of cameras are Olympus.

    i agree the way to go is create one compatible range that everyone uses, with different sizes of card for the different applications and suitable converters. similar to how you can fit a memory stick micro into a duo converter and then into a memorystick converter to use a memory stick micro in a memory stick slot. Strange how sony always seem to do things relly well, but in a completely different direction to every other company out there.

  30. Chophshiy

    What is going on here?

    Having been in the IT business for a bit, I can claim a fair clue as to what characteristics this format would need, I suppose. What's bugging me here is that billion dollar corps can't figure out in say, six months, what I could figure out without the engineering knowledge. Over a year to develop a flash format? Someone's full of it.

  31. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    I notice Fuji's recent cameras have SD slots as well as xD. Perhaps xD's days are numbered.

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    About the first comment

    SD cards are the way to go. You get adapters that turn SD into CF, you get adapters that turn microSD into SD and yet more adapters that convert reduced MMC into SD.

    I work in the digital photography sphere, and I switched to SD when the first SanDisk Ultra II SD card was released. I have no speed problems shooting complex and fast sport sequences with my Minolta SD-2-CF adapter, and besides, the newer Canon models all have an SD slot anyway.

    microSD is based on the SD format, it is just reduced to fit into a phone. And frankly, I don't see why there's a fuss to have to create yet another format... most of them are all derivatives of each other (MMC is an SD derivative, MemoryStick I, II, Pro, Duo, etc are all MemoryStick derivatives).

    Methinks it's just more people wanting to avoid having to pay for agreed formats. Or, in the case of Sony, just being the one to be different.

  33. daniel

    @Tom Hawkins

    This was just as an example of how small a polyvalent high-speed memory card/stick/chip/thumbdrive can be made... I believe that Sandisk also made some sort of rip-off design...

    This was meant to illustrate that small cards can be made to fit into standard sockets that equip all PC's for the last 9 years odd, and that you do not need a big metal encapsulated slot/socket/plug to run USB, therefore a usb card slot could easily be built to accomodate this card format, and would not really need extra design or manufacturing to go into widescale production...

    Good idea Sony, just bad prices and other business practices... Now, how to get the market to standardise on it!

  34. Richard Silver badge

    @ Stefan

    It's actually the other way around - SD is an MMC derivative, and is (mostly) backward compatible.

    The SD/MMC interface is based on the Philips I2C bus specification - which is extremely cheap to implement, reasonably quick and not fussy about clock speed.

    The 'flash' inside an SD card is also available in standard chip form factors - making it very easy to have an amount of 'built-in' flash memory and a replaceable SD card on the same bus!

    Very useful for firmware, don't you think?

    This is why SD cards are so prevalent - they are dead easy to use and provide direct block access with a serial interface.

    - So low pin count on the host microprocessor

    However, SD cards have a fairly low maximum addressing space - 4GB IIRC

    CompactFlash on the other hand has a parallel interface, which makes them physically larger and requiring a higher host pin count - but higher speeds are possible, and it's now relatively easy to fit a magnetic HDD into the box.

    This is why CompactFlash is popular in professional digital cameras.

    If you look at the Human Interface:

    - SD cards are a nice size. Anything smaller will always get lost in a pocket!

    They also 'click' into the socket nicely.

    - CompactFlash cards feel chunky, tough and 'professional'

    So all that is needed is an expansion to the SD card addressing range - add another (optional) byte to the address, and there you go.

    No need for another format - just SD Plus!

  35. Philip Marshall

    Slight problem with SD, it is proprietary.

    One of the problems with SD is that, it is a closed format and the company prohibits users making open drivers for the card. This mean, Linux is out of the question for SD cards. If the company can make an USB-esque card, then I am all for it.

  36. Wonderkid

    We proposed a standard - in 1991...

    ...we conceived UDiS Media, somewhat idealistic, but if anyone is interested in seeing our proposal in full, drop us a line at and we'll publish it at

  37. Bas Scheffers

    You don't have a choice of OS

    Bryan Seigneur: Why do you think a block device gives YOU a choice of OS? It only gives the maker of your camera/media player/etc a choice, you just have to deal with that choice. I am not talking about thumb drives and such here, but purely about cards used in cameras and such that should be easy and reliable to use.

    People simply proposing "use ZFS or ETX3", like some do here, don't seem to understand just how hard it would be to get microsoft on board for that. In fact, it would be impossible. MS might be convinced to write drivers for the kind of thing I propose (like they did for PTP) but getting both them and the camera manufacturers to implement a different filesystem just because a body of flash card makers proposes it is not going to happen. They would have to come up with something really compelling to make anyone implement it.

    But this is all a pipe dream of mine, obviously this new "standard" will just be another block device and everyone will continue using FAT32 on it as it is "the standard."

    There is also no need for personal attacks just because you do not agree with my points of view.

  38. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    I agree with Bas

    The card protocol should be based on file-level access, or at least such a protocol should exist as standard for devices which want it. Think of the advantages:

    Your MP3 player could automatically update its internal indices whenever a new file is transferred, instead of having to rebuild the whole thing every time the file system is touched.

    Your camera/phone/whatever can serve files at the same time as it is using the card itself - no switching into a special mode for connecting to a PC.

    The solution would be to reuse an existing file server protocol (such as Samba perhaps?) over USB rather than TCP/IP. This is how things work for Bluetooth (which has its own problems but lets not go into those here). Why doesn't this exist already? And if it does, why does nobody use it?

  39. Ryan Stewart

    Re: Slight problem with SD, it is proprietary.

    I could be wrong but when I was searching to find out about support for SDHC for my dell laptop all the responses on the board said they could get it to work with their Ubuntu setups but the Windows setup wasnt playing nice with the big cards.

    That would imply that there are drivers for the UNIX based systems.

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