Google Inc. is positioning its Chrome OS as a video conferencing solution for businesses by unveiling partnerships with hardware makers Asus, Dell, and HP today to roll out its Chromebox for Meetings package starting today in the U.S.
An Asus Chromebox is the first hardware available for the solution, and was demonstrated today in Google’s Mountainview, Calif. headquarters. A US$999 box powered by Intel’s fourth-generation Core i7 processor comes with a remote control, a webcam, and a puck-style microphone that will be familiar to users of conference phone accessories. In Canada, the product will be available through CDW Canada. Resellers interested in the product should contact Synnex.
This isn’t the first we’ve heard of the Asus Chromebox. A consumer version of the desktop replacement starting at US$179 has been advertised mostly as an entertainment centre accessory, allowing users to view Netflix or a family photo collection on the big screen HD TV in the living room.
Asus bills its Chromebox as the world’s smallest Chrome computer. It includes the latest dual-band WiFi standard, four USB 3.0 ports for accessories and data transfer, HDMI and DisplayPort outputs with dual-screen support, and an SD card reader.
Mostly available so far on netbook devices marketed as Chromebooks, Chrome OS features Google’s browser and related Web services as the sole operating system of a light weight and simplified PC. The Chromebox for Meetings service will combine conferencing service Hangouts with Calendar for scheduling meetings. Of course, Google’s service offers the advantage of being able to conference with anyone that can install Hangouts on a mobile device or computer.
In a blog post, Google vice-president of products Caesar Sengupta describes some of the features of the Chromebox solution:
Simpler and faster meetings. Walk into the room, click the remote once and you’re instantly in the meeting. No more complex dial-in codes, passcodes or leader PINs. Share your laptop screen wirelessly, no need for any cords and adaptors. Integration with Google Apps makes it easy to invite others and add rooms to video meetings, directly from Google Calendar.
Meetings with anyone, anywhere. Up to 15 participants can join the video meeting from other conference rooms, their laptops, tablets or smartphones. Need to meet with a customer who doesn’t use Chromebox for meetings? That’s easy too—all they need is a Gmail account. You can also connect to rooms that have traditional video conferencing systems using a new tool from Vidyo, and participants who prefer phones can join your meeting with a conference call number fromUberConference.
Dell’s Chromebox for Meetings solution will also feature an HD camera, combined microphone/speaker unit, and remote control similar to the Asus hardware. HP also has a device in the works for release in the coming months.
Google says the US$999 price tag includes a $250 management and support fee. Businesses looking to continue their subscription to the service would then pay $250 per each additional year.