New York – 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 new 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.
The 605 and 705 ship to retailers in July and mid-August, respectively. 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 WiFi 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.
The 405 and the 4GB 605 are the company’s first flash-memory players.
In its new WiFi PMPs, Archos is building on capabilities available in its previous generation models. The previous generation offered HDD-based time-shifting, for example, but those models required manual entry of date and time. The new models feature one-touch recording enabled by WiFi-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.
In another advance, the new 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. Consumers can select individual songs, movies, and TV shows for download, Smith emphasized. 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.
As before, video content transferred from a PC to time-shifted from a TV can be played back on any TV connected via video cable to the PMPs.
In another advance, the new devices add Microsoft’s Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) technology to simplify and accelerate streaming of content from a WiFi-connected PC. Although the previous WiFi models streamed content from a 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 advances over the previous generation include the ability to store and play back video on connected TVs in 720p HD-quality via a plug in, exceeding Apple TV’s QVGA resolution, Smith said. Apple TV, he noted, isn’t portable like the Archos 605 or 705.
Other changes include a more TV-oriented rather than PC-oriented GUI, smaller sizes, improved screen resolution of 800×480, and lower prices, as much as $200 less in the case of the 160GB 605.
The units are the only models available with the ability to play back videos from CinemaNow, which delivers movies in WMV format at a 1,5Mbps datarate, said Smith. The Amazon and Wal-Mart video-download sites, in contrast, deliver video at much lower datarates of around 500kbps, which is suitable for viewing on a small screen but not on a connected TV, he said.