Apple SD Cards fuel (more) Mac tablet chatter
A SanDisk investment commentator, blogging as Savolainen, reckons Apple is going to introduce a tablet or netbook-type Mac. Yes, you've heard this before. But this time, the evidence lies with the SD Card adoption by MacBook Pros.
Notebook computers used to employ a PCMCIA (Personal Computer Memory Card International Association) slot for add-in flash memory, small hard drive, or applications on PCMCIA cards. The PCMCIA is an open standards body. Its format moved on to the faster bandwidth PCMCIA Express Card. That uses a 2.5Gbit/s PCI Express (or 480Mbit/s USB 2.0) connection to its host computer instead of the previous 1.06Gbit/s CardBus connector, which was 54mm wide by 85.6mm long. There are two ExpressCard form factors: a 75mm long and 34mm wide card and a 75mm long by 54mm wide card, both using the same 26-pin 34mm connector.
A newer ExpressCard 2.0 Standard was delivered in March this year at CeBIT and is compliant with USB 3.0 and PCIe 2.0. Products using this standard could appear in 2010.
In the consumer electronics space, occupied by music players, digital cameras, games consoles, mobile phones, PDAs, mobile Internet devices (MIDs), and netbooks, the ExpressCard format is not used. It's too bulky and the smaller devices can't include a complete ExpressCard inside their cases as is the case with notebook computers. Instead the physically smaller Secure Digital or SD Card is used to add flash memory storage. It measures 32mm long by 24mm wide. There is also a micro SD card which is 11mm wide by 15mm long.
Generally speaking, the standard SD card can have up to 4GB of capacity with a high capacity version, the SDHC, offering up to 32GB. An eXtended Capacity SDXC specification was unveiled at the 2009 Consumer Electronics Show, which opens the way to 2TB cards.
The SD format was developed by Matsushita (Panasonic), SanDisk, and Toshiba, and it's licensable. It has become popular and is widely used, even becoming ubiquitous. Apple has now adopted it for its new MacBook Pro 13-inch and 15-inch notebooks. Apparently, the ExpressCard slot on previous Mac notebooks was under-utilised, and the new SD Card slot means cards can be inserted from digital cameras and the like for simple media file transfer. There is no Apple support, though, for the SDHC and SDXC formats.
The 17-inch MacBook Pro does have an ExpressCard slot.
So, we have something of a collision occurring in the memory card space in the Apple notebook area with the previously dominant ExpressCard format being rebuffed by Apple in favour of the SD card format. Why should Apple think that the SD card format is suitable for notebooks? It would seem that Mobile Internet Device (MID) and Netbook SD CArd ubiquity and flash capacity advances are, in Apple's eyes, going to make the SD Card the de facto removable storage standard for notebooks as well as MIDs and netbooks.
Savolainen draws the conclusion that Apple could be working on a netbook and tablet to be announced within a year and that they will also likely use the SD Card format. An SD Card addition to the iPhone is also, he reckons, a possibility.
He argues that SanDisk is well-placed to benefit from Apple's SD Card adoption, noting that Toshiba and SanDisk have flash manufacturing joint ventures and that Toshiba supplies NAND chips to Apple. There is, for example, a 16GB Toshiba NAND die in the iPhone 3GS, with a 32GB version coming.
Savolainen says that a Techonline video of the iPhone 3GS teardown reveals that this chip is a SanDisk/Toshiba branded part. In other words, the SanDisk/Toshiba JV is already well-placed at Apple.
As one of the holders of SD Card IP, SanDisk is well-positioned to benefit from wider adoption of the format. If other notebook manufacturers, jealous of the internal space taken up with ExpressCard slots and connectors, also migrate to the SD Card format so that they can make their notebooks thinner and lighter, then SanDisk, Toshiba and Panasonic should all benefit.
Savolainen is a SanDisk supporter, and his arguments could well be biased in SanDisk's favour. ®
PC Card futilities
Sent to me by DAve Simpson:-
"Express card slots going has nothing to do with SD cards staying, express card slot are going because the PCMCIA association stupidly didn't make express card slots backwards compatible with old PC (PCMCIA) cards, they have no connection with SD card slot whatsoever and have been dying a death for several years now, the real competitor that will hammer the final nail in their coffin is USB 3."
"The only Macbook to actually loose an express card slot is the 15", the 17" still has one and the 13" never had one so even Apple are not really dumping express card slots."
Apple not leading the market
Dave Simpson sent me this note: "The point I am still trying to make is laptops have had SD card slots for a long time - my old HP (dead now but bought 4 years ago) had one."
"Apple is not leading the market here. They are behind. Every netbook on the market already has an SD card slot and most consumer and business laptops have SD card slots or multi-card readers so your comparison of express card slots to SD card slots sounds pretty amateurish at best, especially since most laptops have both. It is a bit like saying including DVD-RW will compete with SD card slots when the two are for different things."
"I realise you warned the readers about Savolainen, but I feel someone should have warned you. His information is complete nonsense and he simply pulled it out of his ass to drum up some investment in Sandisk which you have happily reproduced into an article. Not that I'm complaining - you can write and spell which is a big advantage on the internet these days. It would just be nice to read the usual mature informed opinions that I'm used to on The Register."
My thinking is that of SD card slots and ExpressCard slots are both used for flash and Apple adopts the SD card slot at the expense of an ExpressCard slot then that is interesting.
The Register about Apple:
There is no Apple support, though, for the SDHC and SDXC formats.
Apple about Apple:
Which SD card formats work in the SD card slot?
Cards that conform to the SD 1.x and 2.x standards should work. The SD card slot can use cards that are Standard SD (4 MB to 4 GB) and SDHC (4 GB to 32 GB). MMC can also be used in this slot. MiniSD, MicroSD, and higher density formats like MiniSDHC and MicroSDHC can also work with the use of "passive" adapters that conform to the width and thickness specifications listed above.