Google's $1000 box to put G+ Hangouts in the conference room: Will the enterprise bite?

Google has launched a special Chromebox for conference rooms running Google+ Hangouts. How well will this compete with low-end video conferencing solutions?

Chromebox for meetings can host up to 15 users.
Image: Google

Organizing video conference calls is a source of contention for many organizations. Some companies have taken to using Google+ Hangouts for quick meetings, but even that, being consumer-focused, has its downsides.

Today Google announced their Chromebox for meetings. Essentially it is a beefed-up i7 ASUS Chromebox that is supposed to make it easier and simpler to hold meetings with Google+ Hangouts, especially in offices and conference rooms.

Chromebox for meetings also includes an HD camera, a combined speaker and microphone, and a remote control. The setup costs $999 up front for the hardware and $250 a year in support fees. The i7's Hyper-Threading capability combined with the HD camera has the potential to give users a much clearer picture. Users will need to provide their own display.  

Recent changes to Google+ seem to have made it more enterprise friendly. The new ASUS Chromebox  was lauded as perfect for the office, and Felix Lin called it the "most compact and powerful Chrome device to date." This leads one to wonder if Google is taking another step toward trying to break into the enterprise.

According to Gartner analyst Robert Mason, Google could potentially be targeting businesses. "This solution is another step in an enterprise collaboration ecosystem, at a price point that will bring new participants and use cases into the video experience," Mason said.

Chromebox for meetings is on sale in the U.S. for $999.
Image: Google
 The setup allows up to 15 people to join the chat from other equipped conference rooms or their own personal laptop, tablet, or smartphone. Folks using traditionally-equipped conference rooms can join the call using Vidyo, and people dial in from a phone using UberConference.

Google has already rolled out the Chromebox for meetings at several companies, including Eventbrite, Gilt, oDesk, SoftBank, Lytro, Yelp, and Woolworths. Miguel Pino, the IT manager at Eventbrite, said it was a pretty natural transition for the team.

"Chromebox for meetings is a simple, low profile solution which enables Eventbrite to utilize existing services our users are already familiar with, including Hangouts, but is better suited for collaboration spaces," Pino said. "This isn't a magic bullet by any means, but covers the majority of use cases for day to day video collaboration in a clean way. We are excited to see where the product goes in its ability to handle larger spaces and development of the UI."

Pino is right, this is not a magic bullet, but Google seems to be moving forward with business-focused products regardless of any skepticism. Despite reports that Chromebooks are not selling well in the enterprise, companies like HP are launching Chromebooks that are geared towards business users in markets like Australia.

The Chromebox for meetings setup is available for sale in the U.S. starting today, but Google is planning on releasing it in Australia, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, Spain and the U.K later this year. The ASUS Chromebox will be distributed by SYNNEX and CDW and Google plans on adding Dell and HP models.

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Conner Forrest is News Editor for TechRepublic. He covers startups and enterprise technology and is passionate about the convergence of tech and culture.

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