Christmas, as atheist, agnostic and believer alike have come to know, is about how successful retailers will be in getting their piece on earth. Wrapped up with this spiritual-like focus on sales is the flogging of gadgets to the public, a public happy to collaborate through the suspension of good sense. Which is how this scribe came to own an Archos AV500.
So pleased was he with this astoundingly versatile piece of kit that a small scrutiny of the firm’s accounts followed. No medium or long term debt, exploding sales, a new significant partner and A Plan. A forward PE of 42 speaks for investors’ faith but historical cash flow (back to 2002) has been either outward or limpid.

And so here’s the thing. The new product line missed a month of the Christmas sales period due to poor execution (or "in order to meet its quality standards" in Archos-speak). This late delivery to distributors hit sales forecasts and the shares (JXR:PA). The Archos boys are sitting on a boatload of inventory as a result.

With the constant danger of massive competitive commoditization it looks highly incompetent for a niche leader to miss the prime sales period of the year. The cash must flow or the firm is asking for funding trouble however solid the books may be now.

Nonetheless, fabulous gadget. But some fool proofing and simplification of the video related software wouldn’t go amiss. If/when, for example, Archos were/is able to achieve seamless electronic programme guide (EPG) compatability between its kit and most platforms (Sky, Canal + and so on) it would be a bound in the right direction. And a large capacity flash drive (technology and pricing permitting) wouldn’t be bad either.

Until then, and in keeping with the times, consumption of and not investment in Archos is this writer's limit.

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