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Kingston APAC Media Tour 2007 in Taiwan (Page 1)

We were kindly granted entry into Kingston's factory yesterday and were allowed to check out their production methods.
By Lars Göran Nilsson on Oct 18, 2007 11:00 pm CDT
Manufacturer: none

Introduction and New Products

Yesterday Kingston held a media tour for the APAC press and TweakTown was there to bring you the latest news from Kingston as well as a look into how they manufacture memory modules, flash memory and USB keys. Kingston is currently celebrating its 20th anniversary and the company is thriving. Kingston is one of the more well known memory manufacturers in the world, although the company doesn't actually make its own memory chips.

This might seem like a bad strategy in a market with fluctuating prices, but apparently due to the quantities of memory chips the company is purchasing, it's generally not affected too much as they have long term contracts with several different manufacturers. Kingston also said that they're not affected by chip manufacturers that also sell memory modules or flash memory and this is due to a different market strategy from the company.

What you might not know is that Kingston is the biggest retail brand for DRAM modules in the world, with some 18.1 percent of the market in 2006 with its nearest competitors not having more than about 5 to 5.5 percent. Companies such as Crucial and Corsair has less than four percent market share and most of the high-performance module manufacturers aren't even on the top 10 list according to data from iSupply.

But this is only one part of Kingston's market and with the flash memory market growing exponentially year on year, this is a very important part of Kingston's product range. Kingston actually ships more flash based products than DRAM based products, which should tell you something about how important this market is for Kingston. With 2GB NAND based flash chips becoming mainstream early next year we should see larger capacity memory cards and USB drives at even lower prices than today.

Kingston sees the biggest growth in the flash memory market in mobile phone memory expansion cards over the next three years, especially as the market share of mobile phones with integrated memory card slots are meant to more than double by then. According to data from Gartner, Kingston was the world's fourth biggest flash memory card manufacturer last year, but Kingston said it expects to be number two this year.

The market for USB drives are apparently changing as well with Kingston's customers going for what they call smart USB drives; these include things such as U3 or Migo drives, or those with encryption or backup features. For the first time earlier this year, Kingston shipped more of this type of drive than its traditional plain USB keys. In 2006 Kingston was the second largest manufacturer next only to Sandisk of USB flash drives, but according to Kingston they surpassed Sandisk in Q1 this year and hope that they will continue that trend for the rest of the year.

Kingston is projecting a 170 percent growth in the flash memory market this year, which is an insanely high number. With lower pricing and more storage space on the various flash products it's not hard to see that this could happen.

Kingston also talked about a few upcoming products and the company just launched a 266x Compact Flash card which comes with recovery software in case you delete an image by mistake. These cards are only available at up to 8GB in size, but Kingston has a slower 133x card which will launch later this month in sizes up to 16GB. On the SD card side the biggest news is a new adaptor for Kingston's micro SD cards which allows you to use them with devices that takes Memory Stick Pro Duo cards and it will be sold in a bundle with a micro SD card ranging from 1-4GB, this product will launch on the 29th of this month.

In terms of USB flash drives, Kingston is working on a new HyperX DataTraveler drive which should be their fastest USB key to date and this will launch some time in Q1 next year. At around the same time, Kingston will also launch a Migo compatible DataTraveler which will allow you to store and run applications directly from your USB key. For the more corporate clients Kingston is about to launch its DataTraveler BlackBox in December which comes with 256-bit hardware data encryption among other features. In the budget end of the market is the DataTraveler 101 which has already launched in some countries, but which will be available worldwide later this year. It has a swivel cap so you don't have to worry about losing it and it comes in 1 and 2GB sizes.

A couple of other products will also launch, these include the DataTraveler CRC which is a new version of Kingston's DataTraveler CR which has a built in card reader. The new model will support micro SD and Sony M2 cards and comes in sizes ranging from 1-4GB, it will again be available some time in Q1 of next year. Kingston will also launch a new memory card reader which will be available in November. It has a new design and it will be compatible with standard memory card formats on the market apart from xD and SmartMedia from what we understand.

The next big thing Kingston was talking about was SSD and it expects that by 2010 some 32 million SSD drives will ship in notebooks. Kingston is being conservative and is waiting for market prices to drop until it will launch its own range of SSD drives, but this should happen sometime in Q1.

Kingston also launched two new products during the media tour, the KHX14400D3 which is available as a single 1GB module or a kit of two. This is Kingston's latest high-speed DDR3 module which is clocked at an insane 1,800MHz with latencies of 8-8-8-24. The second product is the KHX130003LL which is a "low latency" module, again available as a single 1GB module or a kit or two. It's clocked at 1,625MHz and has a latency of 7-7-7-20 which we find a bit hard to call low latency. Both modules operate at 1.9V.

But let's move on to the bit you've all been waiting for, the factory tour.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR - Lars Göran Nilsson

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