Google Hangouts Makes Another Push Into Corporate Video Conferencing
Google’s push to shake up corporate meetings is getting an upgrade.
The search giant debuted a new video conferencing system with a camera, speakers, and associated gear that are intended to make it easier for companies to conduct and broadcast corporate business meetings.
The new video conferencing gear, which works with Google’s Hangouts Meet video conferencing software, is an upgraded version of equipment that Google introduced in 2014. But the latest includes extras like a touchscreen tablet that syncs with Google Calendar so people can more easily access scheduled meetings.
Google’s (GOOG) new video conferencing gear, which costs $2,000 plus $250 annually, comes amid a similar push by several big companies. Microsoft (MSFT) has Skype for Business, Facebook (FB) has Workplace software, and Cisco (CSCO) has a lineup of business software and hardware.
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Although people can use Google’s Hangouts Meet for online video meetings without the help of extra gear, Scott Johnston, a Google product management director, believes that limitations in current laptop cameras make for an inferior experience. For example, the camera included in Google’s latest camera package has a wider-angle lens that can show more people in a conference room than a typical laptop camera.
Google hopes that business customers will buy the new gear to replace older phones or conferencing units sold by companies like Polycom. Johnston says that the new Google equipment is better because it is compatible with various Google apps like the Google Drive for storing a video archive of past meetings.
Although Google designed the conferencing gear, several hardware companies built some of the equipment in the bundle. Asus manufactured the Chromebox computer that powers the system, Huddly built the camera, and display technology company Mimo built the touchscreen.
Google produced the speaker, which incorporates technology from Limes Audio, the Swedish startup that Google bought in January for an undisclosed amount. That technology helps remove echoes and ambient noise, Johnston said.
Uses must be G Suite subscribers to use the conferencing gear, which is available only through Google. It will not be available in retail stores.
“We need to get there,” Johnston said, voicing hope that brick and mortar stores may one day sell the equipment.
The gear is part of Google’s G Suite collection of workplace software and hardware that’s part of the company’s larger Cloud business unit. It’s pitched as a companion to the company’s Jamboard digital whiteboard, which costs $5,000 and can also be used to conduct online meetings and take digital notes.