Chromeboxes are popping up all over. Following the release earlier this week of a desktop Chrome OS-based Chromebox from Asus, HP has announced its first Chrome OS model and now, Google is launching a packaged Chromebox designed for business meetings.
Google’s offering could point this growing platform in a new direction -- video conferencing. The new solution is called the Chromebox for meetings, and starts at the relatively expensive -- for a Chromebox -- price of $999, although that includes a $250 first-year fee for management and support.
This model is designed to showcase Google+ Hangouts, which offers video conferencing, and Google Apps. It is built around an Intel Core i7 processor, and features a high-definition camera with a Zeiss autofocus lens, a combined dual omni-directional microphone and speaker unit with a noise filter, and a remote control with a full QWERTY keyboard. The tech giant said that users can set up a video conference room in minutes, and can manage all meeting rooms from a Web-based management console. A screen display is not included.
Asus, HP, Dell
Setting up, Google said, requires a single click on the remote control, which immediately places the user in the virtual meeting room. A laptop screen can be shared wirelessly with the conferencing participants, and the system provides integration with Google Apps for inviting others and adding rooms right from Google Calendar.
A video meeting room can take up to 15 video feeds from the participants’ computers or mobile devices, as long as they have Gmail accounts. There’s also integration with traditional video conferencing systems using a tool from a company called Vidyo, or phone-only participants can join through UberConference.
Google’s Chromebox for meetings uses the Asus Chromebox launched earlier this week, and Chromeboxes from HP or Dell will soon be available in the packaged solution. By itself, the Asus Chromebox is $179.
In addition to being used for meetings in Google’s setup, the new HP Chromebox is also being touted as a way to turn any PC into a Chrome OS, Net-based cloud computer. Available in the spring, HP’s first Chrome OS device is 5 inches wide, uses a fourth-generation Intel Core i7 processor, has a DisplayPort and HDMI port for dual monitors and can be wall-mounted with a built-in VESA mount. The model sounds comparable to the Asus model but pricing and other details have not yet been released.
Ross Rubin, Principal Analyst with industry research firm Reticle Research, pointed out that “historically, we’ve seen a lot of desktops displayed for stationary workers who have simple tasks, like e-mail or productivity.” As long as the workers are not too dependent on Microsoft Office, he added, “many needs are likely to be served by Chromeboxes.”
But a key weak spot for Chromeboxes, Rubin noted, has been video chat “because you generally have needed native apps,” which do not exist in the browser-based Chrome OS environment. With Google Hangouts, though, browser-based video conferencing becomes a feasible use of a Net-based computer.