Toshiba has released details of a new service that will allow consumers to download movies and music onto flash memory cards using special self-service kiosks.

The kiosks will be placed in public locations, such as high-street stores, airports and caféS, and will dispense movies and music that can be downloaded to mobile phones and SD (Secure Digital) Memory cards. The content will be able to be replayed on multiple devices with SD slots.

Toshiba also revealed it planned to manufacture a number of TVs and set-top boxes with SD slots, which will be able to replay the movies downloaded using the service.

Toshiba is developing the service with NCR, which will make the self-service kiosks, and MOD Systems, which is providing the technology to manage and securely distribute digital content.

By offering movie playback via SD cards, Toshiba is beginning a new chapter in its high-definition media-format battle with Sony. Toshiba suffered a major setback last year when the HD DVD format it backed lost favor among top retailers and movie studios, which opted for Sony's Blu-ray DVD format.

SD cards are removable media commonly used into portable devices to store or move images, video or other data. SD card slots are available in 8,000 devices in more than 400 brands, including digital cameras, game consoles and camcorders, claims the SD Association, which provides the specifications for SD card development.

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Users will be able to download close to 4,000 titles from top studios, including Warner Brothers and Paramount Digital Entertainment, and 4 million music tracks from self-service kiosks. Pricing will be determined by the retailers holding the self-service kiosks, according to MOD Systems.

The kiosks will be in US stores some time in 2009, though neither company provided an exact date. NCR also hopes to install the kiosks internationally, a MOD Systems spokeswoman said.

It takes two to three minutes to download a standard-definition full-length film from a kiosk to an SD card, according to MOD Systems. Toshiba is trying to improve the download speeds and capacity of SD cards to make high-definition movies downloadable in the future.

Next page: More work is needed on the format

Toshiba has released details of a new service that will allow consumers to download movies and music onto flash memory cards using special self-service kiosks

The SD Association has also announced the SDXC (extended capacity) memory card specification, which could increase the size of SD cards to 2TB and transfer speeds up to 104Mbps. Current SD cards can store only 32GB of data and are limited to transfer speeds of up to 25Mbps. Toshiba was one of the original founders of the SD Association in 2000.

"In the past 10 years the capacity of optical disc technology has increased less than 10 times [while] NAND flash has increased about 100 times," said Mark Phillips, CEO of MOD Systems.

Files can also be securely downloaded to SD cards, while the DVD faces challenges in securing content.

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"Because content protection is tied to the disc, the disc must be manufactured, merchandised and transported - it lacks the benefits of a pure digital system," Phillips said.

SD cards support digital rights management, which allows music and video files to be secure. The host controller manages SD card drivers and security.

But more work is needed for the SD format to reciprocate the success of the DVD format, which was the fastest consumer format ever adopted, Phillips said. People lapped up DVDs because of its consistent user experience and support for a broad range of players.

"We certainly think more awareness and education is needed though for consumers to widely adopt and understand the benefits of SD," Phillips added.

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