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.

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