Flash 9 video support: A free firmware upgrade available in May will enable the 605 WiFi and 705 WiFi to stream Flash 9 video. Using the built-in Opera browser, Archos users can go to any Web site using the latest iteration of Flash video (Hulu, ABC, CBS, YouTube, CNET TV--you name it) and watch the video of their choice. That's a major advantage over the YouTube-only walled garden available on the iPhone and iPod Touch. (If you're keeping score at home: full Flash support is on its way to Archos handhelds, while it remains unavailable on Apple's flagship portables.)
Streaming video, audio, and podcast support: Also on the way to the 605 and 705 is the "Web TV and Radio plug-in." Not to be confused with the old
"TVportation" placeshifting: The Archos TV+ DVR is getting Slingbox-style placeshifting functionality. A downloadable plug-in (normally $50, but free if you register your Archos TV+ at the company's Web site) available in May will add what Archos is calling "TVportation." It's a nice buzzword, but it basically means that the TV+ can stream your live TV programming to other Internet-connected devices, including (for starters) the Archos WiFi portables, Windows PCs, Windows Mobile smartphones, and Symbian smartphones. The viewing software will be free for those devices, and there's no monthly fee associated with the streaming. (The Windows version of the software looked nearly identical to the viewing software for
Paramount Digital Entertainment partnership: Archos has inked a deal with Paramount, allowing selections from that studio's movie library to be available on Archos video products. In addition to being added to Archos' online Content Portal for purchase, future TV+ units will be sold with several dozen movies preloaded on the hard drive, where they can be unlocked (purchased) for instant viewing.
CNET will be updating its reviews of the 605 WiFi, 705 WiFi, and publishing a new review of the Archos TV+; as soon as the relevant software updates become available. In the meantime: what do you think? Do these imminent upgrades make the portables a worthwhile alternative to the iPhone/iPod Touch? And does the TVportation feature make the TV+ a true competitor to a TiVo/Slingbox combo?