"Everyone's surprised by it," admits Eric Bone, a retail VP at SanDisk, the leader in SD cards, when I reached him just after Apple's keynote address wrapped up. Bone did a double take--along with the rest of us--when Apple added an SD card slot to its refreshed line of MacBook Pro laptops today. Apple tends to forgo card slots of any sort, much less one based on a format that it doesn't control.
Why now? "The unibody form factor is extremely thin and so this makes sense in the space they had available." He's also thrilled. "Previously users had to take an extra step and get a reader," he says. "SD cards are now in pretty much every kind of portable hardware."
This is huge news for SanDisk, which has been laboring mightily to communicate that SD cards are for more than just moving images off your camera to your PC. "For this to be in Apple's mainstream notebooks, it sends the message that SD is not just for imaging but for any kind of content transfer. We're trying to communicate that these cards go in multiple places." SanDisk doesn't plan to release any new cards explicitly targeting MacBook Pro users, as it has for netbook owners where limited storage is more of an issue than with the new 15" model and its 250GB hard drive, let's say.
The next big milestone for SanDisk and SD will be if the iPod and iPhone ever add card slots, something that did not happen today (and is unlikely in the near future). When I met with Bone in late May, he expressed frustration that there are "one billion handsets, 75% to 80% of them have slots, but only 15% to 20% of mobile phones users end up using them."
In the meantime, though, "We can't wait to get our hands on one," Bone says. "We want to see what the implementation will look like in the OS, and we want to see the transfer rates." Count us among the many who also want to get our hands on a new MacBook Pro, too, but we have to admit: The card-slot transfer rate won't be the first feature we ogle.