BARCELONA, Spain — It wasn't so long ago that memory manufacturers were selling their wares by touting how many megabytes they contained. Whether hard drives or memory cards megabytes were the standard. Then came gigabytes (1,000 MB = 1 GB). For the most part that's our current standard. Gosh, even smartphones now come with eight, 16 or even 32 GB of Secure Digital (SD) space for you to carry your music, videos photos and more in your pocket.

But the memory wizards aren't stopping there. Not they're talking about the next step up: terabytes (1,000 GB = 1 TB). Yes, you can find terabytes of storage in outboard hard drive systems and even some well appointed laptops. But PDAs and smartphones? Now, the answer is yes.

Last month, the people who worry about such things announced the next generation of Secure Digital cards. They are called SDXc (eXtended Capacity) memory cards and the future looks, well, spacious.

Here's why: The new SDXC specification provides up to 2 terabytes storage capacity and accelerates SD interface read/write speeds to 104 megabytes per second this year, with a road map to 300 megabytes per second.

In English, that means these little memory cards will be capable of storing more than 2TB of stuff and letting you access them incredibly quickly. These user-removable devices could wind up being faster and possibly cheaper than many of these new-fangled solid-state hard drives I've been telling you about. Only time will tell.

In the SD world'sown jargon, the SDXc card will "dramatically improves consumers' digital lifestyles by providing the portable storage and speed needed to store weeks of high-definition video, years of photo collections and months of music to mobile phones, cameras and camcorders, and other consumer electronic devices."

In case you don't think this is a really big deal you should see the latest industry numbers concerning SD cards. (Below is from a press release from iSuppli, a company that keeps track of such things) :

"...78 percent of all mobile phones with removable memory card slots feature the SD interface and projects 85 percent market penetration by 2012. Massive storage and fast transfer rates enable consumers to buy, and carriers to push, more content and services for mobile handsets."

Seems like a win-win situation all around.

Now please don't expect to run down to the store to but one of these new SDXc cards. Not yet, anyway. Expect the first of the SDXc cards to begin hitting the market later this year. It will take some time before the larger Xc cards are available in 2TB sizes. The industry believes that it will take as much as five years before we'll see 2TB microSD cards. New electronic devices that can take full advantage of the new memory standard are also in the works.

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