SanDisk has taken a step it hopes will transform the mobile media business, unveiling a storage technology called TrustedFlash, which integrates digital rights management (DRM) into a flash memory card.

The addition of DRM will motivate providers of music, games, films and other content to sell those products for mobile phones, either in the form of cards sold at retail stores or as downloadable content that can be transferred to a TrustedFlash card, said Eli Harari, president and CEO of SanDisk. Currently, most content for mobile devices is locked to a particular device, partly because of concerns about piracy.

“TrustedFlash will enable a whole new world of opportunities in the mobile entertainment market by providing the flexibility that consumers are demanding, while still meeting the security requirements of content providers,” Harari said.

TrustedFlash will be rolled out in the fourth quarter of this year, Harari said. It is available now to original equipment manufacturers in miniSD, microSD and SD card formats, according to SanDisk.

SanDisk also showed off a 4GB embedded flash memory component with the TrustedFlash technology, to be integrated into mobile phones, music players, personal media players and GPS (Global Positioning System) devices. It takes up less than four percent of the space that a microdrive would take up, Harari claimed.

Consumers will be able to move content on TrustedFlash cards from one mobile device to another because the DRM is built in to the card. Depending on the DRM settings defined by the content provider, consumers will also be able to copy the content to a PC hard drive or other storage as backup a certain number of times.

The format is independent of particular DRM schemes, and the providers of existing DRM technologies, such as Apple, Microsoft, and the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA), have been invited to integrate their formats into the TrustedFlash format, Harari said.

SanDisk has announced that Yahoo will bundle its Yahoo Music Engine with TrustedFlash cards, allowing users to subscribe directly to the Yahoo Music Unlimited service, listen to music on their phones and play music from the cards on Windows XP and Windows 2000 PCs. In addition, Samsung will equip several handsets with SD card slots to use TrustedFlash, the companies have announced.

TrustedFlash cards can encrypt and decrypt multimedia files without sacrificing playback speed, according to SanDisk. Along with DRM, the cards include components for managing subscriptions, conditional access features such as renting content for a limited time, and payment. The cards can be partitioned into storage for pre-packaged content, downloaded content bought from a service provider, and the user’s own content from a PC.

The TrustedFlash technology currently belongs to SanDisk, Harari said. It could be applied to any form factor, not just flash memory cards, he added.