New Wi-Fi-equipped portable media players (PMPs) from Archos will be the industry's first to download video directly from select authorized download sites via Wi-Fi, eliminating PCs from the download process.
The 802.11g Wi-Fi-equipped Archos 605 and 705 will also download protected music from select sites, joining music-downloading Wi-Fi MP3 players from at least two other companies.
The PMPs also double as portable DVRs with electronic program guides (EPGs) and as digital media adapters (DMAs), which will plug into TVs to display video and images streamed wirelessly from PCs.
"We give you four ways to access content: stream [from the PC], surf [the Web], download [from the Web], and record [from the TV]," said COO Laurence Smith.
Shipments are July for the 605 and August for the 705. The 605 with 4.3-inch widescreen will be available in a $229-suggested 4GB flash-memory version, in a 30GB HDD version at $299, and a 160GB HDD version at $399. The 705 with 7-inch widescreen will be available in 80GB and 170GB versions at a suggested $399 and $499, respectively.
New Archos models without Wi-Fi are the 105 A/V portable with 2GB flash memory and the 2GB 405 PMP with SD card slot. The latter is $170; the former's price wasn't established. The 105 lacks TV-recording capability and the 405 features TV recording with EPG transferred via cable from a PC.
With these Wi-Fi PMPs, Archos is building on capabilities available in its previous generation models. The new models feature one-touch recording enabled by Wi-Fi-downloadable EPGs sorted by cable and satellite TV provider and by ZIP Code. The EPGs, supplied by a third-party aggregator, are available for up to 14 days. "Recording is as easy as with a home DVR," said Smith.
DVR capability requires an optional $100-suggested IR-blasting DVR station equipped with video encoders and supplied with QWERTY-keypad-equipped remote and mouse-like capabilities. It's due in the summer.
The models display the entire width of a Wi-Fi-accessed Web page to make left-right scrolling unnecessary. The new models also add the ability to connect wirelessly to an Archos Web portal that lets users download movies for purchase or rent from CinemaNow, download music and music videos from Burnlounge.com, and stream videos in the Adobe Flash format from YouTube and Daily Motion. The new models are also the industry's first PMPs to play video in the Adobe Flash format used by YouTube, Daily Motion, and other social-network sites, he added. An Adobe Flash plug-in is needed, however.
Archos expects to add other video-download sites to its portal after the devices' launch. EchoStar, he noted, has also agreed to add its planned IP-based video service to the Archos portal.
Also Microsoft's Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) technology is available to simplify and accelerate streaming of content from a WiFi-connected PC. UPnP in the new PMPs lets users find a UPnP-equipped PC and a particular media file in less than 15 seconds compared to as much as five minutes in the previous generation, said Smith.
Other changes include a more TV-oriented rather than PC-oriented GUI, smaller sizes, improved screen resolution of 800x480, and lower prices, as much as $200 less in the case of the 160GB 605.