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Flash Future(HKTDC Electronics, Vol 03,2007)

Flash Memory

Microdia (Greater China) Ltd aims to become a global brand by staying at the cutting-edge of flash memory development
The future of data storage is really in flash memory, claims Microdia (Greater China) Ltd Sales and Marketing Director Brad Maurer. "It's going to be around for quite a long time".

Microdia has transformed its business on the basis of that belief. Established in 1991 in San Jose, California, the company started out manufacturing magnetic data disks before diversifying into CDs and DVDs.

"Microdia saw the future of data storage in flash memory in about 1998," Mr Maurer explains. "Today we have our own factory under our own name in Dongguan on the Chinese mainland, where we produce our flash memory cards."

Initially, the company undertook OEM work for big brand names such as Maxell and Memorex, and more latterly Samsung, Nikon and Leica, after it entered the flash memory arena. "Our strength was in OEM, but in about 2002 we decided to bring out our own brand," Mr Maurer says.

The Microdia brand has "rolled out strongly" in the Middle East and Western and Eastern Europe and also has "some" market share in the Asia-Pacific region. "We're in China, Singapore, Malaysia and Australia and now we're focusing on other Asia-Pacific countries."

Microdia is determined to build its own brand and will do OEM on a strategic basis. "Our biggest strategic OEM partner is Samsung," Mr Maurer explains. "We are Samsung's exclusive flash memory card producer and we in turn use Samsung flash chips in our flash memory cards."

He estimates that the OEM side of the business now accounts for about 40% of production, but expects branded products will grow to about 90% of output over time. "We have four different families, which target different customer segments," Mr Maurer explains.

The basic, lower-priced range for everyday users is called simply Xtra; the Xtra Plus mid-range is for serious amateur and semi-professional photographers who want a higher speed card and Xtra Pro is for serious professionals or consumers using multiple, one-unit applications who need a high-speed card to hold a lot of data. "Our ultra professional series is called Xtra Elite, and now offers the fastest rewrite speed for a flash memory card in the world," Mr Maurer asserts.

The speed has been attained through a specialised system called Enhanced Processing Management, or EPM, and Microdia is already at work on new technology to provide even faster speeds and higher card capacities in future.

R&D is handled in the US, while the Hong Kong office is Microdia's strategic international sales and marketing headquarters in charge of global product distribution.

"We have about 160 people in the mainland factory full-time and an additional 40 part-time workers when demand gets heavy," Mr Maurer notes, adding that the factory covers 10,000 square metres and is ISO 9001-certified.

He stresses that Microdia conducts quality checks at all stages of the production process, including after assembly, and guarantees all its products for life. "Production capacity is up to nine million cards per month - we're probably number two in terms of production capacity in the world," says Mr Maurer.

FOB prices are not fixed, as they are governed by the price of flash chips and the world supply is controlled by three companies. "We typically require orders of about 1,000 pieces, but are flexible when we start in new countries," Maurer advises. "Turnaround time is always within 10 days, and usually we can make it faster."

Flash memory cards now account for approximately 90% of Microdia's output, while a further 10% is split between Bluetooth wireless devices and multimedia products.

"We produce a range of high-quality Bluetooth headsets for use with phones or computers, a Bluetooth card adaptor that can be used to enable a computer that hasn't got Bluetooth capabilities, a Bluetooth printer adaptor, and a Bluetooth-enabled stereo headset that can play MP3 music and will let the user interface with the phone through the headset," Mr Maurer explains.

On the multimedia side, Microdia offers a range of MP3 players and MP4 players. "They're also sold under the Microdia name, and we do some OEM business," Mr Maurer adds.

Although Microdia is not yet a global brand, Mr Maurer believes that it may yet achieve that status by staying at the cutting-edge of flash memory development.

"We expect a lot of growth in the mobile phone sector, where there's a lot of convergence of technologies," Mr Maurer predicts. "Cameras, MP3 players, PDAs and even GPS systems are all going into mobile phones, which is becoming the electronic item that people will carry, and flash memory is a big part of that."

Micro Marketing Corp Ltd

Rm 1371, HITEC,
1 Trademart Drive, Kowloon Bay,
Kowloon, Hong Kong
Tel: 852-2801-7813
Fax: 852-2801-7060
Web: www.microdia.com