It’s a search company, an advertising company, a browser, OS and computer maker, and the leader in wearable computing. Now Google has casually muscled its way into another business: high-end videoconferencing for companies.
As of Thursday, Google will sell you a $999 package unimaginatively called “Chromebox for meetings”. The set-up includes a Chromebox — Google’s answer to the Mac Mini — as well as a 1080p HD camera, a combination mic and speaker and a remote with a QWERTY keyboard on the back.
The package also comes with one year of premium-quality HD videoconferencing free. After that it’ll cost you $250 a year — not a huge expense in the enterprise space.
An even bigger selling point for Google on this turf, which is dominated by companies such as Cisco and Polycom, is ease of use. “Walk into the room, click the remote once and you’re instantly in the meeting,” writes Caesar Sengupta, a product management VP in the Chrome division. “No more complex dial-in codes, passcodes or leader PINs.”
Naturally, the system runs Google Hangouts and is interoperable with the regular version. (It should in theory be interoperable with other companies’ videoconferencing systems too.) You can add up to 15 participants from anywhere — on their phones, their tablets, their laptops. All they need is a Gmail account and the Hangouts app. Presumably, that should make client meetings a lot easier and reduce the need for travel at any given company, though the sales rep trying to rack up air miles might have something to say about that.
The timing of the launch is curious, coming as it does on the same day that Vidyo — the company that helps power the back end of Hangouts — announced its own videoconferencing set-up , called VidyoH2O. That costs $99 to $149 a month, however, and requires that you use your own camera, computer and mic setup — though it does allow people to dial into a Hangout from any phone.