TAIPEI, Taiwan The MultiMedia Card Association and a Taiwanese consortium that's trying to launch a new memory card format have "agreed in principle" to cooperate on technology and marketing initiatives, an official said.
The Taiwanese card format is dubbed Mμ-Card, which stands for micro μ card, and it is backed by a handful of local card makers, system designers and IC design houses. Also backing the effort is a quasi-government research group, the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), which coordinated the effort.
The group has formed a Mμ-Card Alliance to promote the card, and to coordinate further technical development of the format. Its membership is currently limited to the original members who conducted research related to the technology, but it is preparing to open the group to at least 40 other local companies that have expressed interest in the format.
This week, while engineers rush to finish documenting the spec, the alliance will meet with representatives from the MultiMediaCard Association, which oversees the open-standard MMC format and is interested in combining the two specs and discussing cooperation. The discussions will happen in Taiwan, but an MMCA spokesman declined to confirm the meeting or comment on the new format.
The Mμ-Card Alliance has not engaged with the SD Card Association, of which all but one are members (PDC and ITRI sit on its board of directors).
Backers are also claiming that its I/O is simpler to design with than that for SD cards. "The SD I/O is not so easily used. It requires a lot of effort to develop, especially in terms of software," said Gordon Yu, president of C-One Technology, which sells flash-based cards under the brand name Pretec and is a member of the alliance.
Simplicity derives from the use of USB protocols for the digital portion. But the speed is twice that of USB, and the low-power consumption is only one-third or one-fourth that of USB 2.0, said Liu Chih-yuan, who directed the project at ITRI and is chairman of the Mμ-Card Alliance. "That's our strength. It's a very low-power, high speed USB compatible interface. So we are complementary to the MMC."
The alliance plans to introduce the card in various stages this year, with demonstrations early on and full-fledged functionality coming by year's end. Cards based on the format would be competitively priced with MMC-based cards, according to the alliance.
Card vendors are likely to save money on the controller, which is about 5,000 logic gates, if only IP for the Mμ-Card format is included.
Liu estimated a 10 percent savings on a controller that sells for about $1 today. If device and card makers want to support all standards, including USB 2.0, the cost would be about 30 percent higher, Liu said, and a royalty would be paid to the SD patent holders.
Even a scenario where a device or card supports all the open standards MMC, USB 2.0 and Mμ-Card the gate count would still be around 25,000, so the cost would still be higher.