Why Even With More Features, Archos Lags


Archos Archos last week said it has formed a partnership with the Dish Network that will allow its 605 or 705 device to be connected to a VIP622 or VIP722 DVR via USB to transfer shows back and forth. But it’s just another example of the company trying to add even more functionality to an already stocked device, while failing to provide users with an end-to-end solution.

Arhcos’ portable media players consistently rank quite high in objective reviews, and as far as I’m concerned, they are easily the nicest ones out there. Further, taking into account uninvoiced orders for its recently launched fifth-generation product line, Archos just posted a 12 percent gain in quarterly sales over the same period last year. Yet the company ranks a distant fourth in the PMP market.

It’s what Archos doesn’t do that makes all of its extras like DVR-recording and set-top box integration little more than bonus features on a player that will never hit the mainstream.

Consider this: At a price of $500, Archos’ hallmark device — the 705 Wi-Fi — basically doubles as a portable DVD player and portable media player. But unlike the iPod, which allows users to access iTunes and use a relatively simple interface to do just about anything with the device, Archos relies on nothing of the sort. Instead you spend the majority of your time taking media that you’ve gotten elsewhere and transferring it on the Archos as if it was an external hard drive.

And although the company does offer the ability to download movies with the help of its Archos Content Portal, it doesn’t come close to rivaling Apple’s service. In fact more often than not, navigating your way around it is more trouble than it’s worth.

Archos’ products feature the most advanced components available, but do people really want that in a PMP? The iPod’s success is not due to the fact that it offers the very best components, but can be attributed to its intuitive interface, thin design and the downright ease of its iTunes integration. Unfortunately, the Archos players offer none of these important attributes.

Suffice it to say, Archos may offer the best PMP on the market, but without a change in strategy, the company will also be known as an also-ran.

Don Reisinger is a technology columnist who covers everything from Google to HDTVs. He currently writes for over 15 popular technology publications, including CNET’s Digital Home, InformationWeek and Future Publishing in the UK.



Well the Archos looks very great. And it has so much features that i’m thinking of buying one :)


I don’t think that Archos is ranking 4th among PMPs, that is only if you call the iPod Classic, Zune, and ipod-like Zen PMPs. Those iPod/Zune/Zen are not PMPs, they are hard drive based Mp3 players firstly. Sure they have small color screens and can play very limited amount of video codecs, but 95% of the use of those devices is for playing music, since it is really very painful to get video content onto an iPod, Zune or Creative player (lots of conversion unless you happen to buy video on iTunes/Zune store/ download something creative supports).

Among portable video players with 4″ or larger, Archos is certainly number 1, also in the USA.

Sure Archos should improve the interface for Video-On-Demand, right now the interfaces are based on HTML and Javascript. What I think they should do is add an overlay interface for VOD on top of the video (just as there is overlay controls for volume, fast forward, settings, time and such, there should be an overlay control for “Skip to next recommended video”, or just some overlay control to launch another VOD video. The point being it should be super easy to sit back in the couch and watch Video-On-Demand using the DVR Station on the TV in the living room. The Archos being the only device out there that streams any codec from the Internet be it Flash video, DivX, WMV, Quicktime, h264 and whatever audio formats stream as well. So sure, now that Archos has these amazing features, they should not only focus on signing more Content deals for the Archos Content Portal, they should also work on an extra overlay interface to make smooth navigation on the TV even quicker and so that it feels as smooth as when you are switching channels on the regular TV.

As for critisizing drag-and-drop feature compared to doing everything through iTunes, I think that is a kind of wrong opinion to have. One of Archos main advantages is that it functions as an external hard drive, which means it reads all formats natively, and does not need to convert anything or generate thumbnails through a software like iTunes. So it works seamlessly on Windows, Mac, Linux without needing to install any software. If you want to automatically synchronise your music and movie collection then you can use the Windows Media Player synchronising mode, which is exactly like iTunes. And for synchronizing podcasts Archos provides the ArchosLink software. Which takes audio and video podcasts in any format and synchs them automatically as soon as you connect the Archos in Universal Storage Mode.

I think that the Archos 605 WiFi is selling as fast as Archos can produce them. Archos didn’t have enough money in the bank to produce enough to satisfy all the demand in the 4th quarter of 2007. But now Archos has a bit more money in the bank and should be able to get closer to satisfy all demand in the next few months. So basically, Archos sells whatever amount they are able to deliver. Archos devices don’t stay long on the shelves. It’s kind of a bit like the Wii, but produced by an independant medium-sized company like Archos that is valued at about 500 times less than Nintendo or Apple.

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