The devices, set for early July release, can play back MP3, WMA or WAV files. Consumers will be able to schedule shows to be recorded by picking a time and channel or by synchronizing online with Yahoo TV Guide to get a lineup of shows to choose.
The AV400 series will hit the streets as a number of other companies, such as Sony Electronics and Creative Labs, get ready to introduce similar devices that play back video as well as audio files. Brad Wallace, chief operating office of Archos, said adding video is a natural evolution for digital media players.
"We compare these devices to when music players first came out and no one thought consumers would buy them, but now everyone has a music player and we believe this is the start of the video market," Wallace said.
Wallace said Archos has the advantage of experience in pitting its devices against other companies'. "This is our third device," he said. "We've had about three years to figure out what consumers want in terms of a good user interface and screen resolution and video playback."
Josh Martin, an analyst with research firm IDC, agreed that video was an understandable next step for digital media players, but warned of the copyright protection issues that move raises. Digital media is easily transferable and portable.
"You inherently have problems with copyright when you're dealing with digital media, and some of those concerns are still being addressed," Martin said. "But vendors are learning more and more from what happened with music and DVR on television."
There will be two versions of the device. Each will have a cradle that connects to a video source, such as a television or set-top box, and an external speaker and built-in CompactFlash reader for transferring files directly to the device. The AV420 will have a 20GB 1.8-inch hard drive and a 3.5-inch color screen, and the AV480 will have an 80GB 2.5-inch hard drive and a 3.8-inch color screen. The AV420 will cost $549.95 and come with a removable battery while the AV480 will cost $799.95.