Lord of the Meetings: With Chromebox for Meetings, Google has just shot dead video conferencing hardware rivals


Video conferencing hardware has always been expensive but now Google looks to disrupt the industry by launching Chromebox for Meetings officially in the United States, Thursday, for only $999. It will soon be rolled out in the United Kingdom, Canada, Japan, Australia, France, New Zealand, and Spain, as well. The move doesn't augur well for Google's rivals in the video conferencing hardware business.

Chromebox for Meetings aims to disrupt the video conferencing scene for enterprise clients. Essentially, it is a complete video conferencing kit that can be set up within minutes out of the box. It includes an ASUS Chromebox that has an Intel i7 under the hood, a Logitech high-definition camera, a remote control that doubles as a QWERTY keyboard, and a microphone-speaker combo unit with adjustable volume.

The new device is the marriage of Google+ Hangouts and Google Apps that will allow companies to have HD video conferences. Businesses can host video meetings with as many as 15 attendees. Participants can essentially join using any gadget - smartphones, tablets, or laptops. For people without a Chromebox, a Gmail account is what they will only need. The system also makes use of Google Calendar to show meeting schedules on the display.

"The best meetings are face-to-face-we can brainstorm openly, collaborate closely and make faster decisions. But these days, we often connect with each other from far-flung locations, coordinating time zones and dialing into conference calls from our phones. Meetings need to catch up with the way we work-they need to be face-to-face, easier to join, and available from anywhere and any device," wrote vice president for product management at Google Caesar Sengupta.

Businesses using other kinds of conferencing systems can still connect to Chromebox meetings by using a tool from Vidyo, which has been collaborating with Google to help Hangouts connect with IP PBX systems and H.323/SIP from companies such as Polycom, Tandberg, and Cisco. Those who prefer to join over the phone can use UberConference.

In order to avoid awkward scenarios that happen during voice conferences, the cloud service mutes people joining the meeting to avoid disruption of ongoing discussion. The video also intuitively switch to whoever is talking, mimicking how people focus on the speaker during face-to-face meetings. The streams will also be ecnrypted.

"Any company can upgrade their meeting rooms with a new Chromebox, built on the Chrome principles of speed, simplicity and security," Sengupta added.

The $999 initial cash out includes the Chromebox and peripherals, plus support for the first year. Customers who might require technical support after the first year need to shell out $250 per year. Before the end of the month, Google will also release HP and Dell versions of the Chromebox for Meetings.

Google said that companies such as Yelp, Premier Foods, Gilt, Costco, and Eventbrite have been doing test run of Chromebox for Meetings in the past few months.

Businesses interested in purchasing Chromebox for Meetings can get it through CDW while resellers can contact Synnex.

With Google entering the business video  conferencing scene and stamping its name on Chromebox, it might have just earned the title "Lord of the Meetings," squashing other brands in its path.

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