Google Launches $999 Meeting-Room-In-A-Box

Feb 6 2014, 1:44pm CST | by

Google Launches $999 Meeting-Room-In-A-Box

Google today introduced what’s essentially a meeting room in a box, a $999 system that provides high-definition teleconferencing for up to 15 people at a time.

Chromebox for meetings will take on business videoconferencing systems costing $10,000 up to hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to Caesar Sengupta, a Google vice president of product management. The goal, he says, is to provide the next best thing to face-to-face meetings to companies that could never afford pricier systems from the likes of Polycom and Cisco Systems that are used by large companies.

“We’re trying to improve collaboration by making face-to-face communications much more affordable,” Sengupta said in an interview after a press event at Google headquarters in Mountain View.

The system, which includes a Chromebox computer with an Intel Core i7 processor, a camera, a speaker-microphone combo, a remote, and software to run the system, is available in the U.S. starting today from Asus, with systems from HP and Dell and sales in other countries–Australia, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the U.K.–coming in the next few months. Companies need to provide their own screen, broadband connections, and of course a room.

After the first year, the ongoing support will cost $250 a year per room for the cloud-based service. Users need to have a Gmail or Google+ account to sign in and use the system. The system uses Google Calendar to show scheduled meetings on the screen, though a business needn’t be a user of Google Apps to use the system.

Sengupta repeatedly emphasized the ease of use of the system, which uses the Google Hangouts consumer videoconferencing service on the back end. Users need only sign into a meeting by a simple name, rather than dial in using long access codes. Remote users who aren’t in an outfitted room can join using Hangouts.

The product grew out of Google’s own frustrations in setting up and conducting meetings at its farflung offices around the world. “Most of our meeting rooms have videoconferencing systems in them now,” Senguta said. “It’s had a transforming impact on our culture. People can meet face to face. It’s improved the openness of the culture. So now, it’s kind of strange to just call someone up.”

The core of the system’s hardware is a small, sandwich-sized Chromebox computer, less powerful versions of which were launched just days ago by several manufacturers such as Asus and Samsung.

Several companies have been trying out the system for the last few months, including Costco, Eventbrite, Gilt, Yelp, and Premier Foods.

The Chromebox for meetings rooms can connect to rooms outfitted with traditional video conferencing systems using a new tool from Vidyo. Participants available only from phones can join meetings with a conference call number from UberConference.

Google’s enterprise business has been mostly a footnote to its massive advertising business. Some observers even think it’s mostly aimed at undercutting Microsoft’s business model. But with this and other products, it’s clear that Google will continue to offer more business-class products when it sees an opportunity.

Source: Forbes Business


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