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Archos Plans Compatibility With Authorized Video Sources

Greenwood Village, Colo. – Archos expects its new portable media players (PMPs) to be compatible with a variety of authorized digital video sources.

New models in the Archos 404, 504 and 604 series will be capable of playing authorized video downloads from the MovieLink and CinemaNow sites if those sites, as expected, enable transfers to portable devices, Archos COO Larry Smith said. He also expects his devices will be compatible with Vongo’s video-download service.

On top of that, the devices are expected to accept high-speed digital transfers of A/V content from select USB-equipped Dish-network DVRs, Smith said. Although the PMPs likely won’t offer that connectivity when retailers begin selling them in September, Archos plans a running change in the fall, when it will also offer software downloads to consumers who already bought one of the devices, Smith explained.

The availability of Dish-DVR-compatible PMPs through Archos retailers will mark a distribution-strategy change and make the compatible PMPs available to consumers through more outlets. Currently, consumers can buy Dish-DVR-compatible PMPs only through EchoStar’s Web site or independent EchoStar satellite dealers. Those PMPs, marketed under the PocketDish name, are made by Archos. Archos offers the same models through its distribution channels, but those modes are stripped of Dish compatibility. The new Dish-compatible models should be available simultaneously through EchoStar and Archos channels, Smith said.

The devices in the three series will be smaller and up to 30 percent less expensive than previous-generation models while offering larger screens and more storage capacity with similar or greater battery life. All spit out video at up to DVD-quality 720×480 pixels at up to 30fps to a connected TV through component outputs on the docking/charging cradle. The lineup will also include what Arcos believes is the industry’s first PMP with 160GB storage capacity. A separate model incorporates Wi-Fi and Web browser to stream video and surf the Web from any home or office wireless network or from public hot spots, including those requiring browser-based authentication, Smith said.

Like before, all will connect to the analog outputs of a TV, cable box or DVD player to record in real time, but to make the devices smaller, Archos took the video-encoding capability out of the devices themselves and put it into included docking/recharging cradles called DVR Stations. The devices themselves feature a VCR-like timer but no electronic program guide (EPG). They also feature IR inputs and outputs to schedule TV recordings in advance.

All will continue to offer built-in music encoding.

To make them compatible with future CinemaNow and MovieLink downloads, the devices play protected Windows Media Video (WMV) video at 1.3Mbps datarates without transcoding formats, the company said. In fact, the PMPs can handle bitrates up to 10Mbps, whereas PMPs based on the Microsoft Portable Media Center (PMC) platform max out at 800kbps.

As for potential compatibility with the Starz! Vongo download service, Archos said it is “awaiting more technical specifications from them to confirm device compatibility for all of their services. We don’t, however, expect any issues with this and expect to fully support their video-on-demand.”

Vongo offers pay-per-view downloads and a monthly subscription service, which requires a portable that meets specific movie-studio subscription-download demands. The demands include automatic expiration of a movie after a certain time, even if the subscription is in good standing, and 24-hour viewing windows.

The new devices consist of the Archos 404 and 404 Camcorder at targeted suggested retails of $299 and $349, respectively; the 504 in 40, 80, and 160GB capacities at targeted lists of $349, $399, and $599, respectively; and the 604 and 604 Wi-Fi with 30GB HDDs and targeted lists of $349 and $449, respectively. All feature the same cosmetics, user interface, and A/V playback decoders but differ in screen sizes, HDDS, and select other features, such as camcorder capability and Wi-Fi.

All incorporate the following video decoders: MPEG-4 up to 30fps up to 720 by 480 resolution, AVI, and protected and unprotected Windows Media Video Main Profile (up to 30fps up to 720 by 480 resolution). Optional downloadable decoders are H.264, MPEG-2, and VOB.

All incorporate MP3, protected and unprotected Windows Media Audio (WMA), and WAV audio playback. They also display photos in the jpeg, bmp, and png formats and documents in the PDF format.

As for encoding, the PMPs feature built-in WAV encoder. The video encoder, built into the docking cradle, is MPEG-4.

For video encoding, the cradle features composite, S-, and component-video ins and outs and IR ins and out to control a connected TV or settop box. Content encoded from a video source’s analog outputs will be stored in VGA 640×480 resolution and output to a connected TV in that resolution. DVD-quality video transferred from a PC via USB, however, can be stored in 720×480 and output in that resolution via the cradle’s component output to a connected TV.

In the fall, consumers will be able to download software that enables the cradle to pause live TV. The price will be about $20.

The 404 and 404 camcorder feature 30GB HDD, 3.5-inch 4:3 LCD screen, and 4.02×3.05×0.5-inch silver chassis. The 404 camcorder adds 1.3-megapixel camera/camcorder to store up to 75 hours of home video.

The 504 features 4.3-inch 16:9 screen in a 5.1 by 1.3 by 0.9-inch, 11.1-ounce chassis incorporating HDDs of 40GB, 80GB or 160GB.

The 604 and 604 Wi-Fi feature 4.3-inch 16:9 screen and 30GBB HDD in a 5.1 by 3.1 by 0.6-inch chassis weighing 9.3 ounces.