CES Dispatch--Archos Does iTV

Amid reports that Apple next will be launch a new movie download service in conjunction with a revamped Apple TV, it’s clear from announcements out of the annual Consumer Electronics Show that Steve Jobs & Co. will face plenty of competition. Over the past few days, I’ve seen demonstrations from satellite providers Dish Network and DirecTV that will let their subscribers download movies on demand and transfer them to mobile devices, while cable providers Comcast and others also are getting serious about giving consumers more entertainment choice and options. The latest announcement comes from Archos Technology, one of the earliest innovators of the portable video player. Archos is tackling the home with a new gadget called Archos TV Plus. It’s a piece of equipment that houses a hard drive and connects to the television to record shows and download movies, either directly or from a network connection to a home pc, from services such as CinemaNow and Amazon Unbox. Users can then connect their Archos portable players to the box via a USB cable for fast downloads of content to take on the road. The challenge for a company like Archos is that it will be competing against big-name competitors with only a small but loyal fan base behind it. The $249 price of an entry-level box also could be deal-breaker for many consumers. And the box initially will only record in near DVD-quality despite having high-definition connections (Archos says the box will be updated later to record in HD). One thing is clear: this will be the year that the battle to dominate the young video market will be fierce. Expect to see more than a few names, big and small, slink away licking their wounds.

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