Two Storage Giants To Become One

Alan Bullock
Oct 27, 2015

On October 21, Western Digital Corporation (WD) announced its plan to acquire SanDisk in a deal that values SanDisk at approximately $19 billion. This merger has some interesting possibilities for consumer and professional photographers.

SanDisk is perhaps the best-known manufacturer of memory cards for digital still cameras, digital video cameras, and mobile phones. Since the early digital camera days of the mid-1990s, the company has followed camera vendors as they explored, and ultimately abandoned, a number of card formats. Around the world, photo geeks’ desk drawers are littered with various flavors of PCMCIA cards, SmartMedia cards, Memory Sticks, and xD-Picture Cards, many of which bear the SanDisk name. With very few exceptions, the camera industry has settled on the SD standard, including its higher-capacity variants, SDHC and SDXC.

The acquisition lets WD expand beyond its legacy hard drive business, providing a broader range of storage products than ever before. The combined company will have a strong position throughout the workflows of photographers and videographers, whose content is likely to be captured on a SanDisk memory card, transferred to a computer’s traditional or solid state internal drive for editing or other processing, and backed up to a USB-connected external drive, server, or network-attached storage (NAS) system for safe-keeping.

The missing link is some type of connectivity that could automate the process of moving photos and videos from one storage location to another. If the concept sounds familiar, perhaps it is because nearly a decade ago, a startup called Eye-Fi introduced the first SD memory card with a built-in Wi-Fi radio. The Eye-Fi card could automatically transfer photos (and later, videos) to the user’s computer and, optionally, on to a number of online sites for storage, sharing, and printing. While Eye-Fi’s workflow model has changed over the years, it is still the easiest way to add Wi-Fi connectivity to a camera that does not already have it.

What does this have to do with WD and SanDisk? One of the other vendors to develop a wireless SD memory card is Toshiba. Its FlashAir Wi-Fi cards have been available for several years, but have not been aggressively marketed and remain largely unknown among consumers. In September 2015, the company also introduced the TransferJet SDHC card, which can instantly transfer photo and video files to a mobile device or computer simply by touching a camera to an NFC sensor.

So here’s where things get interesting. Several paragraphs deep in the WD/SanDisk acquisition announcement, it was mentioned that WD would also inherit SanDisk’s 15-year strategic partnership with Toshiba, providing access to that company’s NAND and other non-volatile memory technologies. While it is unclear if that relationship includes access to Toshiba’s Wi-Fi and NFC memory card technology, it could certainly pave the way for integrating connectivity into SanDisk and WD products.

InfoTrends’ Opinion

I’m envisioning at least two scenarios. In one, a small desktop application would automatically retrieve photos from a wireless memory card, store them on a computer’s hard drive, and, optionally, back them up to an external drive or NAS device. In the other, a NAS device such as WD’s MyCloud would include software to communicate with a Wi-Fi memory card as well as a NFC sensor to transfer content from a NFC-enabled card. Suddenly, it’s one-stop shopping for consumers from capture to storage. Now, if only WD had an online cloud storage service, too.

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