Right after Google launched a video meeting product encompassing Google+ Hangouts and Google Apps with HD video conferencing, Asus unveiled their first Chromebox to run it and HP announced that they will offer a similar product in the upcoming weeks.
Chromebox for Meetings, as Google’s product is called, includes a Chromebox, microphone, speaker and an HD camera, all for the humble price of $999. That price also includes the first year’s $250 management and support fee, from which I gather that it will be a subscription based service.
I’m not sure about the price of the peripherals, but the Chromeboxes themselves won’t be that expensive. The $179 Asus Chromebox includes a Intel Haswell SoC (Celeron 2955U), Ethernet, dual-band WiFi, and the price goes up if people opt for better specs. Expect HP’s Chrome OS uber-mini fanless Chromebox to be similarly priced, as there’s really not much of a difference besides branding.
Caesar Sengupta, a Google VP of product management, pointed out that “We’re trying to improve collaboration by making face-to-face communications much more affordable.” Chromebox for Meetings may seem expensive, but similar systems cost tens of even hundreds of thousands of dollars, and Google’s product won’t be shy to face them.
Sengupta emphasized the impact of videoconferencing systems on the way business work and interact nowadays: “Most of our meeting rooms have videoconferencing systems in them now. 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.”
HP’s Chromebox sports HDMI and DisplaySport (thus having support for two monitors), WiFi, Bluetooth, and USB 3.0 ports. In terms of processing power, the Chromebox made by HP will be quite capable, since it will come with an Intel Haswell CPU. The high-end version meant for business videoconferencing will undoubtedly be based on an i7.
It might take a while till large companies who are currently using teleconferencing products made by Polycom and Cisco Systems to make the switch to Google’s meeting-room-in-a-box. The price, which is rather steep for home users, will be one of this product’s major selling points for business consumers. Business videoconferencing peripherals aside, Chromeboxes are really useful for people with basic needs.