CompactFlash and SmartMedia Slug It Out for Dominance In the Digital Camera Market, IDC Says

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — While most digital camera vendors easily agree that flash memory is the most effective method to capture digital images, the debate rages on as to whether CompactFlash or SmartMedia is more effective. According to International Data Corporation (IDC), the two camps won't come to an agreement any time soon.

"SmartMedia currently holds the advantage in both slots and card shipments in the digital camera market, but there is certainly an air of hesitancy among vendors when speaking on the subject," said Kevin Kane, an analyst with IDC's Digital Cameras and Scanners research program. "CompactFlash continues to earn design wins, even among vendors who were previously devout supporters of SmartMedia, and is gaining support across the industry."

The biggest differences between CompactFlash and SmartMedia focus on capacity and price. CompactFlash's maximum capacity is 128MB, compared with SmartMedia's 32MB. On the other hand, an average SmartMedia card cost less than $15 in 1999, compared with more than $51 for CompactFlash.

According to IDC, more digital camera vendors currently use CompactFlash memory than SmartMedia in their products, but SmartMedia cameras and SmartMedia memory outsell CompactFlash. In 1998, 53% of cameras using either CompactFlash or SmartMedia were using SmartMedia, and SmartMedia held 58% of worldwide flash card shipments.

"Although more vendors use CompactFlash than SmartMedia, the leading digital camera vendors are split between the two mediums," Kane said. "SmartMedia's advantage in shipments is due to the strong performances of Olympus and FujiFilm."

IDC believes SmartMedia's limited capacity may eventually be its Achilles' heel and expects CompactFlash will gain the market share advantage in 2000.

"Vendors won't hinder their high-resolution products by supporting a memory with limited capacity," Kane said.

IDC recently published Capturing Digital Memories: CompactFlash and SmartMedia Lead the Way (IDC #B20384). The bulletin compares CompactFlash and SmartMedia memory cards and presents IDC's forecasts through 2003. Forecasts include CompactFlash and SmartMedia total slots in digital cameras, cards per camera, total cards shipped, average price per megabyte, average card capacity, and card average selling price. For more information or to order the bulletin, please contact Sally Donovan at 1-800-343-4952 extension 4219 or at

About IDC

International Data Corporation delivers accurate, relevant, and high-impact data and insight on information technology to help organizations make sound business and technology decisions. IDC forecasts worldwide IT markets and adoption and technology trends, and analyzes IT products and vendors, using a combination of rigorous primary research and in-depth competitive analysis. IDC is committed to providing global research with local content through more than 500 analysts in more than 40 countries worldwide. IDC's customers comprise the world's leading IT suppliers, IT organizations, and the financial community. Additional information on IDC can be found on its Web site at

IDC is a division of International Data Group , the world's leading IT media, research and exposition company.

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