Memory card specialist SanDisk has begun production of its 1GB Secure Digital memory card, which it expects will begin appearing on store shelves before the end of the month.

SD cards are widely used in devices such as digital still cameras. The higher capacity will mean users with large data storage requirements can carry around fewer cards. The 1GB card should be able to accommodate approximately 2,000 images taken at a 1,600x1,200-pixel resolution or roughly nine hours of Mpeg-4 video or around 16 hours of MP3 audio.

The company expects the cards to cost in the region of $500 (£275), said Bob Goligoski, a spokesman for SanDisk.

Launch of the 1GB SD cards come more than a year after the first prototype was shown. Matsushita, better known by its Panasonic brand name, unveiled a working sample at the Ceatec exhibition in Japan in October 2002. SanDisk followed with the announcement of its 1GB SD card in March 03 at the CeBIT exhibition in Germany and said at the time said it planned to ship the card in the third quarter of 2003.

Matsushita, which along with SanDisk and Toshiba developed the SD card specification, says it expects its first cards to be available during the first half of this year.

The availability also brings SD into line with Sony's Memory Stick, which has been available at 1GB capacity for some time albeit with some incompatibility with many existing products.

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