SanDisk's founder says Apple's iPhone is increasing worldwide interest in sophisticated portable electronics and driving up demand for flash memory cards for the devices.
"What the iPhone is doing is showing the world that a cellphone is really a multimedia device," Eli Harari said. "And multimedia devices need more memory."
Harari shared the insight as Ducati riders did stunts outside of SanDisk's headquarters on Wednesday to mark the launch of a fast new line of flash memory devices named after the Italian motorcycle maker.
"Demand for consumer electronics, digital images and mobile phones is growing across the board -- in the Middle East, South Africa and Russia as well as in the Europe, the Pacific Rim and the United States," Harari said.
In spite of a hefty price tag of either US$499 or US$599, depending on memory size, analysts say Apple has sold between 310,000 and 700,000 of the gadgets since its US launch on June 29.
Now the question is which European countries will be first to benefit from the much-hyped touch-screen device, which combines the wildly popular iPod music player with a mobile telephone, e-mail and Internet access.
Harari expects the price of flash memory to continue to drop, making mobile devices more affordable.
The decline of prices will be more modest than the 60 percent plunges in each of the past two years, Harari said.
"We continue to bring the cost down but the rate is not sustainable," Harari said. "There is no question about it. The market needs to catch up."
Harari estimates the current form of flash data storage will last for a maximum of four more generations, about eight years, before needing to be replaced with new technology, making it vital to invest in innovation.
SanDisk is credited with inventing flash storage and bills the Ducati-themed devices as the fastest it makes.
SanDisk converted the parking lot of its offices in Milpitas, California, into a motorcycle track for the Ducati Edition line's debut.
Models in form-flattering red dresses delivered samples of the Ducati flash memory line on silver trays at a launch announcement complete with checker-flag covered seats.
The Ducati Edition line includes a flash memory card with a built-in USB drive to plug directly into computers and a flash drive reminiscent of a tiny red motorcycle fuel tank.
Among the motorcyclists on hand were Australian Casey Stoner and Italy's Loris Capirossi who race for Ducati on its MotoGP team, which SanDisk in January agreed to sponsor for two years as part of a co-branding partnership.
Retail prices on the line range from US$125 for a flash drive to US$315 for an 8 gigabyte CompactFlash card designed to hold data in digital cameras or other portable devices.
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