Google unveils Chromebox for Meetings videoconferencing kit

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Google is breaking into the videoconferencing market with the launch of its enterprise-focused Chromebox for Meetings setup.

Created by Asus, the Chromebox comes with a 1080p camera, remote control, and a combined speaker/microphone attachment.

The Asus Chromebox, which was announced earlier this week, is powered by an Intel i7 chip, and also includes HDMI, USB and Ethernet ports.

Connecting the Chromebox to a monitor, brings up the Meetings interface. This allows users to launch a meeting and invite others to join using the remote control.

The search giant claims this setup makes it possible to convert a meeting room into a fully-fledged videoconferencing suites, with the help of Google Hangouts.

It has also assured users that all video data will be encrypted, and at present it is not "natively" possible to record video meetings.

The offering also integrates with Google Calendar to make it easier for users to invite others to meetings, and let others know when a meeting room is already in use.

Up to 15 people can join a Chomebox-based meeting, either from another conference room or via a tablet and smartphone.

Wireless connectivity also allows users to share the contents of their desktops on the main screen, allowing disparate groups of workers to collaborate on documents or sit in on presentations.

In a blog post, announcing the new release, Caesar Sengupta, vice president of product management at Google, explained: "Need to meet with a customer who doesn't use Chromebox for meetings? That's easy too all they need is a Gmail account.

"You can also connect to rooms that have traditional video conferencing systems using a new tool from Vidyo, and participants who prefer phones can join your meeting with a conference call number from Uberconference."

At the moment, there is no word from the search giant on the UK release date and pricing of the product, although it goes on sale today in the US for $999.

However, speaking at the launch event of Chromebox for Meetings in central London earlier today, Mark Van Der Linden, enterprise country manager at Google, said the product is priced competitively.

"That [sub-$1,000] price includes the first year maintenance and support [costs]," he explained.

"At that price point, and the quality of these devices, you could equip 10 meeting rooms with these videoconferencing capabilities."

After the first year, users that want to continue receiving support from Google for the product will need to pay around $250 a year, he added.

Meanwhile, Jon Watson, enterprise sales engineering manager at Google, outlined the product's market growth potential.

"Many customers have a small amount of high-end videoconferencing capability, and that's...pretty expensive and pretty significant and you have to go book the rooms.

"What the research is showing us is greater than 90 per cent of the meeting rooms have no videoconferencing capabilities. So it's not like we're trying to go in and compete against the five per cent that have," added Watson.

Caroline Donnelly is the news and analysis editor of IT Pro and its sister site Cloud Pro, and covers general news, as well as the storage, security, public sector, cloud and Microsoft beats. Caroline has been a member of the IT Pro/Cloud Pro team since March 2012, and has previously worked as a reporter at several B2B publications, including UK channel magazine CRN, and as features writer for local weekly newspaper, The Slough and Windsor Observer. She studied Medical Biochemistry at the University of Leicester and completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Magazine Journalism at PMA Training in 2006.