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It wasn't all that long ago that the idea of getting a full 1GB of flash memory onto a removable card was a very big deal. And those cards were the size of a credit card.

Then came SD (and MMC) cards -- they were the size of large postage stamps. MiniSD cards came next and they were the size of small postage stamps. But both of these offerings were deemed "too large" to fit inside the portable devices of the future -- and the microSD card was born.

We're talking the size of a small fingernail. Easy to drop (and misplace) and equally easy to fit into increasingly smaller devices like smartphones and high-definition, digital pocket cameras.

I thought 128MB on a microSD was an amazing feat. Ha! Within months it was up to 1GB. Then 2GB. 4GB. And recently 8GB.

That was then and this is now. SanDisk (STOCK QUOTE: SNDK) has just announced that it is bringing to market a 16GB microSDHC (secure digital high capacity). Sony (STOCK QUOTE: SNE) offers its 16GB Memory Stick Micro (M2) (of course, Sony has to be different) mobile memory cards.

Why is this tiny card such a big deal? Because portable devices are capable of handling so many more tasks than just a few years ago or even a few months ago. Take for instance music storage, video playback and high-definition videos, a slew of interactive games, new cell-phone applications (you know: applets) and even countrywide GPS maps.

Plus, and I'm guessing now, that as smartphones begin taking the place of laptops in a number of situations that we will begin to see more super-users storing word processing documents, spreadsheets and even digital presentations on their smartphones. 8GB and smaller capacity cards just won't do in 2009 and beyond.

The new 16GB microSDHC card will carry a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $99.99, and the Sony M2 version will sell for $129.99. They should be available in the U.S., Europe and Asia in October.

SanDisk reminds us that microSD cards can hold a maximum capacity of 2GB of information. MicroSDHC cards are available in 4GB, 8GB and now 16GB. They should all be compatible with newer mobile phones (those which have a microSDHC slot). The Memory Stick Micro (M2) cards are designed for new Sony Ericsson cellphones.

Don't forget, if your cell phone can accept these memory cards, you can always carry more than one. That way, you're not limited to nonremovable, preordained memory limits on your device (like Apple's (STOCK QUOTE: AAPL) iPhone, for instance). Think in terms of a 16GB T-Mobile G-1, Android phone, for instance. Or a Nokia (STOCK QUOTE:NOK) N96. You get the idea.

Plus, when microSD card capacity is bumped up to the next level (do I hear 32GB?), you'll be ready.