Video conferencing is changing. It started about a year ago. That’s when I first heard about DIY room systems. Then I got wind of “Huddle” systems, which are basically smaller room systems. Today Google introduced their own play on this trend.
Chromebox for Meetings looks to be their spin on Vidyo’s DIY room system. It’s basically a very small PC, running the Chrome OS, with the requisite accessories (USB webcam & speakerphone) to make it a video conference end-point. Just add a decent monitor or HDTV.
All of the PR points to the use of a Logitech HD Pro Webcam C920and a Jabra SPEAK410 USB Speakerphone, both of which have graced my desk for a year or more. Both are leaders in their respective product categories.
An RF cordless remote control serves as a mouse alternative. It’s reported to have a keyboard on its back side for alphanumeric entry. It’s said to have a nano-USB connection, presumably for convenient charging. Of course, you can add a traditional keyboard if you like.
I would hope that Google has made some tweaks to the OS so that it’s especially easy to access a Hangout. I’ve not had any experience with Chrome OS so I can’t speak to it directly. Perhaps I should take a utility PC and give it a look.
At $999 Chrombox for Meetings is priced similar to Logitech’s new CC3000e ConferenceCam, but they are in fact quite different. The Chromebox is an all-in-one solution, requiring only a display and internet connection. In contrast, the ConferenceCam is a suite of USB-attached I/O for a host PC.
Looking into the pricing of the components, I see that an i7-based NUC runs around $680. The webcam is around $70, as is the speakerphone. Guess at $75 for the remote control and you’re up to $895 of a piecemeal basis.
It’s not exactly clear what’s in the Asus Chromebox that Google is using in this offer. Google states an i7 processor but nothing further about its internals. Presuming a reasonable amount of memory, perhaps an SSD, and you’d be getting great value for money.
Asus reports their Chromebox as supporting 4K UHDTV when equipped with an i3 or i7 processor, which is definitely interesting. Hangouts only support 720p video at present, but the extra screen real-estate could make document sharing/collaboration a better experience on a single monitor.
Google is renown for a uniquely DIY approach to their data centers. They were amongst the first large scale users to built their network components. Their scale yielded unique problems, so they set about to create unique solutions. It seems to me that Chromebox for Meetings extends that philosophy to a video conference end-point appliance.
Some will no doubt pitch this as all doom-and-gloom for the traditional vid-conf end-point makers. I really don’t see that because Chromebox-For-Meetings is just a bundle of existing things. It certainly is convenient. Time will tell if the software holds the magic to make it truly compelling.