Feb 12 2014

Google's Chromebox Could Be a Game Changer for Video Conferencing

By leveraging the ease of use found in its Hangouts product, the company could do for video conferencing what it’s done for notebooks.

It seems like Chrome has the Midas touch in Google’s product lines these days. The company’s Chromebooks are flying off the shelves, and its web browser recently overtook Microsoft’s Internet Explorer to become the most popular web browser.

Whatever magic Chrome has in its name is now being bottled up in Google’s next venture: video conferencing. Google has been a leader in consumer video communications since it introduced its Hangouts product into its social network, Google Plus, last year. With Hangouts, a video conference can be started with the click of a button on Google Plus. Hangouts videos can be automatically recorded and uploaded to YouTube for sharing with the rest of the world.

While Hangouts has worked out well, for the most part, Google is now ready to put some meat on its conferencing bones with Chromebox. This device is purpose-built for meetings and comes with wired and Wi-Fi connectivity, an HD web cam, a speakerphone, a Bluetooth remote control and a QWERTY keyboard.

CDW was among the first launch partners for the device. Nick Mueller, a video and telepresence architect with the company, gave a detailed hands-on review of the device on the CDW Solutions blog. But you don’t need to go hands-on to appreciate that affordability is the biggest advantage Chromebox offers:

If you’re a Google Apps organization (and you must be to get full functionality) this is a very, very low cost, very functional video conferencing platform that ties right into tools your users already use daily. You can enable conference rooms at $999 a pop.

And that’s the biggest good — the economical price combined with the fact that Google provides all the video conferencing infrastructure for a comparatively low yearly device registration fee in the cloud. The most expensive component of most video conferencing systems tends to be the infrastructure – the call control, firewall traversal, bridging and management systems add up to big bucks on top of the endpoints themselves — and don’t forget the maintenance!

This is the same strategy that Google deployed with its Chromebooks. By leveraging the cloud as its operating system, Google was able to reduce the cost of its notebooks and entice users to its product line. And it wasn’t hard to do, because users were already familiar with the software side of Google through using Google Apps, YouTube and Google Plus. That same ecosystem fuels the Chromebox solution.

If consumer trends are truly leading the enterprise, then there’s a pretty good chance that the Chromebox could be just as disruptive and innovative as Google’s Android and Chromebooks products.