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What Eye-Fi has its eye on

imageSwitched reports that KDDI is showing microSD cards that have embedded Wi-Fi, a natural evolution of a long-running trend in network-enabled memory cards. SanDisk had Wi-Fi-enabled Compact Flash cards back in the Pocket PC era and, of course, Eye-Fi has marketed a variety of Secure Digital cards with embedded Wi-Fi. Since digital cameras have a particular purpose and don’t use a standard operating system, Eye-Fi has focused the cards’ functionality on uploading photos to PCs and various photo and video services. While its prices have always been uncompetitive with the rapid dips in flash memory price-performance Eye-Fi now faces more difficult challenges as both units and average prices shrink for digital still cameras. Eye-Fi’s “Pro” 4 GB card with Wi-Fi costs $150, $30 more than an entry-level Canon A480 at MSRP.

So, Wi-Fi-enabled microSD certainly would have appeal to Eye-Fi, which could use it to expose the company to a much larger market of cell phones. Software would be more of a challenge as Eye-Fi would likely want to create client applications on multiple operating systems. Software, though, could enable new applications beyond uploading to one of my long-running bugaboos, in-the-field sharing of photos (and other media).

But while the Switched piece points out that some smartphones don’t support Wi-Fi, that’s becoming the exception these days with even Verizon Wireless warming to the LAN technology somewhat. Eye-Fi might be left to recreate its current wireless photo transfer service on feature phones  that can connect wirelessly, but relatively expensively and slowly.