It's only mentioned briefly in the blog post, but one of the biggest wins with this system (and the aspect that I absolutely love when using it internally at Google) is the simplicity of screen sharing into a meeting. Anyone who wants to present can simply join the hangout from their laptop and then share their screen. Not only does it mean you don't have to fuss with cables/adapters (which can also break/wear out), it also means that if someone wants to share something while someone else is presenting, you don't have to disconnect and reconnect various computers; the other person just shares their screen as well (and/or the first temporarily stops sharing their screen). It also means you don't have to have dedicated rooms for presenters - someone in a remote office can present from their laptop to a meeting room elsewhere.
Having a meeting that doesn't involve slides? The meeting organizer can just throw up the meeting agenda with a click or two - or if it's in something like a Google Doc, the meeting agenda can even be dynamic, with people adding topics they want to visit as they determine them, and the organizer simply working their way down the agenda as it grows. Add the agenda as an attachment to the google calendar entry for the meeting and people can review/add to the agenda ahead of time, and then look back at it after the meeting for a reminder of what was covered.
The software and experience could easily be worth the price, but the promo page does a poor job explaining its features and differentiating it from a normal Chrome OS hangouts experience. Is this special software that's only available on this package? Are there dedicated servers for subscribers? A video showing the actual experience would be worth a lot here, but the site tells me almost nothing other than it's a video meeting solution. Also, can I even use the chromebox for things other than meetings without a painful hacking process? It seems that i7 would be going to waste whenever you aren't having a meeting.
> Anyone who wants to present can simply join the hangout from their laptop and then share their screen
This is in line with every other solution like IBM Smartcloud or Citrix GoTo meeting, there isn't anything new or innovative about this it's just a little cheaper. Also comes with the nice vendor lock-in that it's not self-hosted so all those sensitive business conversations are going over google servers - see how that goes down at audit and also that you are required to have google apps.
The Chromebox is significantly cheaper than other enterprise VC solutions ($10k+ with steep annual fees). For those customers, I think the Chromebox is really compelling as it is a much better user experience.
Could you highlight what the differences are versus using Hangouts and collaborative editing on Drive, apart from the compatibility via gateways to conventional videoconferencing systems? Capacity? Management?
The best 'self-contained' video conference machine I've used in the last year is:
1. $400 less up front than the Chromebox
2. Has an annual service fee $200 less than the Chromebox
3. Has a camera with awesome built in face detection (if one person is in the room it centers on their face, if three people are in it automatically expands to fit them all in, if you wander around the room it follows + refocuses on your face).
4. Is voice controlled.
5. Plays Lego Marvel Superheroes at 1080p.
The XBox One and their Skype integration is really well thought out and solves most of the annoyances surrounding video conferencing, focal length, bad speakerphone mics, etc. highly recommended.
Skype doesn't allow screen sharing or video chat for 3 or more participants without a paid premium plan.
Once you've got that, Skype's screen sharing leaves a bit to be desired. Hangouts allows for screen sharing of individual app windows, which I consistently miss when using Skype.
Additionally, Skype video calls under the premium plan have a fair use policy with a limit of 4 hours per session with a monthly cap of 100 hours total. That may be okay for an individual, but is probably not the best solution for something sitting in a conference room shared across a company.
sure, but even without Chromebox, Hangouts is still a pretty good offer. A few friends and I are working abroad (in the US, Canada and UK), and we keep in touch at scheduled times on Hangouts. Chromebox is not really meant for individual consumers, but Skype's proposition also loses out to Hangouts there when I need to have credits or a premium account to talk to more than one person.
Of course, it's also a matter of business models and how each company earns its revenue. However as the end user, "free" is better than $x/month
As usual, Google picks the Intel-solution over a cheaper solution for political reasons (just like with the original Chromebooks, original Google TV, etc), and ends up failing, because the price is not competitive in the market for that type of product that it is.
Google has an internal version of this called GVC and it is hands down better than any other system I've used. The interface is easy and intuitive to use, and being able to screenshare/present is as simple as visiting a URL. No installation of anything needed on the part of attendees.
Hangouts also allows widespread distribution, so for example, with the GWT team's weekly meetings, we have sometimes recorded them, or broadcast them live, and even invited external participants to watch and field questions.
You can also do things like run Hangouts Apps (Web Version), that lets people collaborate on documents while having the meeting. We do this with design docs or spreadsheets used for planning so that everyone on the video can edit what we are all watching get presented.
Those complaining about the price are speaking from the standpoint of consumers. For someone running a non-trivial business, paying $1000 to get customer support is worth the trouble.
If Google weren't making any margin on this, then you'd have to worry about it going away at some point. If you want a healthy assurance that it's going to stick around, pay b2b rates.
Well sure. But when you start using services that require some kind of G+ opt-in then all of a sudden my Google account has a presence in Google Plus land - which is something I may not want my employees to have associated with their Google Apps accounts.
My company has been using Google Apps for a while, uses Hangouts for videoconferencing, and the worst problem I've had is getting (1) a reminder to add a profile picture and (2) a pointless "What's Hot" email.
So not really sure what awful problems you expect to pick up.
Well, we already have all the SSO and authentication that we need in our current setup, so having to overlay another set of credentials could be a humongous hassle, especially since the people using the conference rooms are very non-technical.
I love Google Apps, don't get me wrong, but it wouldn't be fitting in my current environment. :-)
(We might just be able to set up "dummy" accounts that nobody ever notices or deals with directly; still very intrigued by this)
I was wondering where is all the money was going. It's clearly the newly announced Asus Chromebox, which starts at $179. I haven't seen the high end price, but according to the spec sheet, the only difference is the CPU. The price difference here is $820. I couldn't imagine the cost difference between a celeron and a mid-range i7 to be much more than $300. That same camera is $75 on amazon, and a similar looking speaker is $90, and I don't imagine a RF remote is more than $15. That gets us to about $600, and leaves $220 for the management and support fee.
So the hardware cost checks out, but the question is if their support and software is worth $250 a year. They don't do a good job explaining what goes into that though. Is the software a proprietary version of Chrome OS? Do you get to use priority servers instead of the normal hangout ones? Does that support fee cover all your chromeboxes, or is that per box? I feel a lot of the value proposition isn't being well explained. If it's amazing quality, and a great meeting experience, it can easily be worth it, but I'm not getting the sense of how the experience is better than if you bought the components yourself. A promo video demo would help.
As a remote worker, I could see getting something like this for our central office. I need an almost frictionless solution and this sounds pretty close "walk into the room, click the remote once and you’re instantly in the meeting." My coworkers aren't interested in walking into a conference room with their laptop and sending a hangout. It would be useful if it supported multiple cameras somehow - which might break the hangout model. I want one pointed to the table and one pointed to the whiteboard.
My company has a system from Vidyo (who appears to have collaborated with Google on this, and whose technology apparently powers part of the Hangouts product in general).
We've got a Mac Mini in every conference room, and every conference room represents a "room" in Vidyo. The whole thing is really frictionless. You open the app on your desktop, say you want to join the meeting in Room XYZ, and next thing you know you appear on the TV in there. Everyone also gets a personal "room" so if you're a remote worker and want to call a meeting with people in an office, you can just tell people in a physical conference room to join you by name.
The desktop client is implemented in Flex so it's a little ugly, but still works pretty well. I've been doing several meetings a week over Vidyo for the last six months and it's been pretty seamless.
It sounds like this is the same sort idea, except with Google Apps integration.
It really does have to be nearly frictionless and continue to work, though. My coworkers and I mostly do walk into a conference room with our laptops and set up a Skype or Google Hangout, because nobody knows how to work the $$ Polycom videoconferencing system unless a guy from IT is present to set it up. It's also relatively easy to pull in a remote collaborator on a Google Hangout (even if they've never used it before, it's like 5 minutes to install), while I don't know if the Polycom setup even works when dialing out to a third party who doesn't have their setup. Since nearly every call involves at least one off-site collaborator, that really reduces the utility of a closed-circuit "enterprise" VC system to us if it can only dial sites that also have the same hardware (not sure if this is true, but that's the only case where I've seen it work).
You can do better than Chromecast with the Chromebox setup, you can share your screen, window, or document, into the hangout so that all participants can see it. You can do this now with Hangouts, you don't need the Chromebox.
We use this at Google for all of our video conferencing, and have for years. It's very well battle tested.
Edit: It looks like there's a $250/year fee per Chromebox. I'm not sure if that's good or bad compared to other vendors. You can connect from your computer or phone for free though.
Hopefully this price point and target audience is just the beginning (a la Tesla?).
I'd love for it to be simpler for me to arrange Hangouts in my living room, and for now I deal with doing it through an HTPC.... but I'm absolutely not interested in paying what they're charging here. So I hope eventually they introduce a cheaper consumer targeted device.
(edit: here's hoping the next Chromecast has a way to hook up a webcam...)
Regarding your desire for the Chromecast to have a webcam hookup - one factor that might play into why it doesn't is that in general encoding video is somewhat more computationally expensive than decoding it.
> Need to meet with a customer who doesn’t use Chromebox for meetings? That’s easy too—all they need is a Gmail account.
This would be amazing, except no partner or customer our company works with has a gmail account. I have used quite a few different solutions, and while none of them wow me, the one thing all of them did was work for everyone.
For this to become a viable solution for this market it will need to include non-gmail users.
That seems to be the easiest scheme to implement. Most other systems will spin up a unique hyperlink and a require a passcode. By building in something that simple, Google could really have a winner on their hands with this.
I like that it comes with an integrated camera, but I would like to be able to use an existing A/V systems as well. I've been in meeting rooms that already have a camera in every corner, plus one in front on an actuated gimbal. Leveraging that existing hardware would make a lot of sense.
We've cobbled together a rough equivalent of this at work, using a Mac Mini + Hangouts, a Logitech video camera, a wall-mounted flatscreen, and a USB speakerphone. The pieces all work as expected, but it's clunky and needs to be better integrated.
For example, someone will change the Mac's sound IO for whatever reason, then the Hangout audio IO will change and someone else won't realize this (e.g. sound comes out of the Mini speaker in the closet, instead of the speakerphone). So a few mins at the start of every few meetings is spent debugging these things.
The holy grail everyone wants is, "walk into the room, and it just does the right thing." This looks like a step in that direction from our current setup.
This device addresses a lot of those issues. Walk into the room; joining the hangout booked for this meeting just requires a single button press.
The Chromebox is bound to a room (GApps resource) so it is aware of which meetings start when, and shows this to you on the screen.
Also, the Mac Mini solution involves creating named GApps accounts, and inevitably those sessions time out or people log them out. These devices also solve that problem (they are 'bound' to your GApps domain), which for a company with more than a few conference rooms can get really old.
I wonder how well this works over T1's. We have 5 offices that this would work great for, and would be far, far less than the $10k/site we paid for LifeSize video conference systems (excellent, by the way) at the last place I worked.
I remember trying to replace a T1 with Comcast Business Cable. It was faster in the office, but variable latency, dropped packets, less usable remote access (just ssh and scp) and more frequent maintenance outages killed it.
IIRC, SDSL turned out to be the better answer (and we really, really wanted to try FiOS, but they didn't support our building).
Has anyone tried some kind of bonding between the T1 and cable? A reliable but slow connection and a fast but variable connection seem like they could be much cheaper than a fast and reliable connection.
The competition for this product (Cisco, Magor, etc) can easily run into 6 figures. Think of it as Google charging $500 for the software & configuration in addition to the $250/year. Would you rather they made their money by showing ads during your conference?
I don't think HN is the target audience for this product. Many of us can roll out our own cheaper solution. This is targeted towards the non tech-savvy managers that want a cheaper video conference solution. The 250 dollar a year fee is tiny for a large company but large enough to prevent home users from adopting it.
I agree. I don't get what "support and maintenance" means. I currently have a set-top box (Apple TV), webcam, HD camera and speakers, and don't pay a yearly "maintenance" for any of them. Why would running a teleconferencing software on such a setup cost $250/year?
The only motivation I can see is: "well the competition charges a hefty recurring fee, so why shouldn't we", but then the competition isn't doing all that well for this reason. I see a lot of resemblance to Cisco's "Umi" product, which had a $25/mo fee as well, and was a total flop.
You don't pay a yearly maintenance for any of them because if they break, you're going to have to fix them yourself.
Most companies prefer to actually have a support plan, because if they don't, the alternative is to pay their own people to fix them, and it's usually cheaper to not pay someone full-time to have expertise in that area.
We had hundreds of expensive Macs at my last gig. Guess how many of those we bought AppleCare for? Zero. This was also true of pretty much every piece of electronic equipment we owned.
Note that this isn't very unusual either at most companies. Given the low failure rate of most electronics, it is simply cheaper for the business/IT team to buy a replacement Mac / router / whatever than to pay any kind of yearly maintenance fee, which is always designed to make more money for the vendor.
$250/year for a $999 piece of equipment is not a good deal. If it were an option, like AppleCare, most would advise you to not take it.
While this sounds interesting, it seems like a major branding error. Why mix "Chrome" with a meeting-room appliance? Extending the Chrome brand to a browser-UI-based OS makes sense, since your interaction with the OS is basically using the browser. But this...
Just the next step. First Google offers a cheaper Office solution. Schools, Government, and Businesses fall over themselves to switch. A cheaper, more feature filled, Video Conference solution is just the natural progression.
So regular computers just can't cut the mustard at streaming video? I don't see the value in a custom hardware product for this and I can't quite justify the price tag. It's not often that Google creates a product where you say to yourself "Oh, I guess this just wasn't created for me" but I think this is one of those rare occasions.
Disclaimer: I'm not a megacorp with millions to spend.
Every company I've ever worked at (save one) had projectors in conference rooms, but no permanent computer hooked up to it. The meeting organizer would have to set up a web conference in something, and then people would share their Desktop, and whoever the presenter at the moment was would plug in their laptop.
And then the guy forgot his power cord, and can't project for the whole meeting.
And then the other guy forgot his Mac's VGA converter.
And then some other guy has a Mac VGA converter, but it's the old one, not the new one.
And then the guy's Windows box for some reason will not show video on the second monitor.
And the file he needed was on his desktop, not his laptop, and does anyone have a USB key?
And now Windows is rebooting and you can't turn off the power, because it's installing updates.
I think a permanent ChromeOS-based computer plugged in to the projector makes a TON of sense. I've also drunk the Google Docs kool-aid, so YMMV.
EDIT: Oh, and then because the projector was sharing his desktop, we get to see a ton of instant messages. Some of them from his wife. If instead you were doing a Hangout on a collaborative Google Doc, you wouldn't see that.
For those people who complain about $250 annual fee, just think about how much a plain old phone line would cost.
Regarding the $750 hardware cost, if you build 15-way video conference system and sell it with $200 operating margin and one year hardware warranty, good luck if you can hit $750 price point. The price will surely go down over time, but it is way cheaper than anything else on the market.
For a lot of companies, the biggest benefit here will be having a cheap computer already in the meeting rooms that facilitates wireless screen sharing for any users with any kind of device that can use Hangouts. Compare that to traditional hardware-based VC and the amount of friction this eliminates, especially for non-technical users, is enormous.
Depending on your flavor of WebEx, the cost is roughly $100/mo.
After one year you are a bit ahead with the Chromebox (~$1200/WebEx vs $1000/Chromebox) but I totally agree with your questioning of hangouts as a proven tool in an enterprise environment. Dedicated Cisco telepresence is in the magnitude of $15k to $150k depending on the feature set.
Webex is more suitable for outside sales calls or running through decks.
We've found this unit excellent for team meetings or coworking with remote team members (we were part of the pilot). The audio and video quality is very good, and unlike with Skype, the meeting is just a simple URL you follow to join; distributed in the Calendar event.
You can also bookmark named hangouts; for example if you have a 1:1 with a remote coworker every day. Or, I dunno, if you wanted to hold regular office hours - you could have essentially a static hangout that you use for an hour or two every day. Google is really trying to make Hangouts a solid videoconferencing tool, and for companies already using Google Apps, this is an incredibly valuable addition.
Also, the speaker looks pretty much like Jabra Speak 410. And the camera looks like a Logitech fullhd webcam without Logitech logos. Which are all admittedly excellent products for doing video meetings.
Not to mention that if you are afraid of Google exploiting your data, you'd probably have the same problem with the NSA so cisco, juniper and almost all other US-based vendors (and why not Chinese/Russian?) are out of question.
Most corporations are more concerned with whether or not the data goes "off-network" or offsite at all, not whether or not the intermediary hardware they own is compromised by three-letter agencies.
At a previous job the building next door was a remote office for a non-IT part of a large non-tech company. They spent the money to get some kind of carrier line (maybe EPL/EVPL?) solely for teleconferencing.
While the system is almost certainly not difficult to compromise for TLAs and others, they get assurance that the data hasn't left "their" network,
I personally don't think there's much rhyme or reason to that particular permutation of those policies, but there is certainly a large group of buyers who are fine with potentially backdoored commercial products as long as "the data doesn't leave our network" and hence would not be OK with Google's solution.
Webex and GoToMeeting handle all-hands type meetings by making it only a 1-way presentation (view-only as you said). Participants can only ask questions via a chat dialog. The nice thing is, it prevent stupid feedback loops you always get when someone forgets to mute themselves.
Though, I believe both Webex and GoToMeeting charge extra to have this ability.
if this is google hangouts implementation, I sure hope they have fixed the problem with autogain.when we used hangouts volume always crept up until feedback loop appeared, there is no way to turn it off in the settings. we switched to skype that handles this sort of thing well.
I read this and remember back in the late 90's when Videoconferenceing was moving away from expensive ISDN lines into the internet and thoughts of H.320 and respective document sharing (slides as this does) add-ons and extensions gave a usable platform albeit not cheap. That changes, video compression and codec onto chips came to market and got cheaper and cheaper.
Now some 15 years later after many flavours, Google now offer the option but not just a feature push, but on a slow, methodical gradual feature addition which has seen the progress from VOIP/IM chat into video, into group video into a public contact phone book (aka Google+) of today. Then into a rebrand and now just polishing to the lowest common denominator of user in userbility (I personaly prefered ealier Gmail and chat clients, but that's me and other quirky geeks I suspect).
So why is this big or important more too the point. Well If you view ChromeOS and its features to a modern revamp of the `dumb` terminal (that were not that dumb and could do Various terminal standards and on mainframes even form validation for numeric and alpha feilds and size of input back in the 80's.
Now duringt he 80's a company called SInclair released there next ZX Spectrum replacement which ICL modified and released the OPD (One Per Desk). This was featurewise in mahy respects what a user today wants in a terminal, even had phone built in, though no video back in the 300baud data days.
So too me I see ChromeOS and the slow but sure feature set grow, as the new terminal for the cloud - aka cluster/distributed mainframes we use thesedays. After all everything goes in circles, even technology approach. I know people can and do view webbrowsers as the terminal of our times and yes, many would be right, but if you step back a level you would want something with a little more, though not much more and a good interface and mobiles have opened up the whole touch-screen interfacing (was around in the 80's, just not as cheap and usable) and for many tasks, work very well. But bigger screens always will help upto a point and a real keyboard (although still stuck in a layout that seems like forcing some backwards outdated layout onto new people and children even today, think keyboard-religion). It is with that all in mind for me that make ChromeOS seems like the `dumb` terminal of our times and remember `dumb` terminals are never dumb.
Now when you can add via a MCU/bridge external VC setups and studios into a hangout is when Google will be truely and finaly solidifying a technology that serves our times and needs and if anything else. Least help stop the UN and other World leaders flying around the World to lecture us mear peons why the climate is in a mess and how we should do our part about carbon emisions, whilst they then fly to the poles for photo shoots to add onto there stories of why climate change is happening.
That is what Videoconferencing can truely offer and can, but its main issue has always been taking it serious compared to a jolly/plane flight/travel for so many mentality wise, again think the same mentalities that give us QWERTY keyboard-religions.
One day, but after over 15 years I hope this keeps the momentum and slow but sure approach google has taken so far into Videoconferencing/VOIP. Until then we will always have `dumb` terminals and mainframes be they touchscreen clients or clustered machines called a cloud.