Toshiba to launch camera SD cards with Wi-Fi file sharing in U.S. from summer

Toshiba's FlashAir line will compete with products like Eye-Fi's successful line of wireless-enabled SD cards

Toshiba will launch its new line of Wi-Fi enabled SD memory cards in the U.S. from summer, a company executive said Thursday, in a challenge to established makers of such cards like Eye-Fi.

The Tokyo-based tech company's new FlashAir line of SD (secure digital) cards include a built-in wireless access point and file server, so photographs and other files saved on them can be easily shared. Up to 10 devices can use the miniature wireless network generated by the card to download photos from its memory, using a web browser.

The cards will probably go on sale in the U.S. in May or June, though the final date has yet to be set, said Hiroto Nakai, a senior manager in Toshiba's flash strategy division. He said they were designed for a different type of use than Eye-Fi cards.

"I think Eye-Fi is mainly meant for uploading. Our cards are aimed at sharing, at the time and place the photographs are taken," Nakai said.

The company began selling its FlashAir line of wireless cards in Japan earlier this month, and has launched a campaign across Tokyo to promote its file-sharing features. The product currently comes in an 8GB version that costs about ¥6,000 (US$72) at Japanese retailers. A similar memory card without the wireless functionality currently costs around ¥1,000.

Nakai said Toshiba has made an API (application programming interface) for the card's software available to software and device manufacturers so they can add functionality and ensure it works with their devices.

Memory cards from California-based Eye-Fi's memory cards have proven popular for their ability to automatically sync wirelessly with other devices and download photos from the digital cameras in which they are used. The company recently spoke out against a new specification for SD cards with Wi-Fi proposed by a major standardization body, saying the move infringes on its intellectual property.

Wireless memory cards could eventually be made obsolete by digital camera makers, who are increasingly building Wi-Fi features directly into their hardware.

Toshiba is one of the world's largest manufacturers of NAND flash semiconductors used in memory cards, which could give it pricing and technology advantages over rivals.

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Jay Alabaster

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