Google's $35 Chromecast dongle made it cheap and easy to show off YouTube videos on your TV. Now, the company sees another window of opportunity for Chrome: teleconferencing. "Audioconferencing takes pain to a completely new level," says Caesar Sengupta, VP of product development for Chrome. Today, the company plans to fix that with a $999 kit that uses a souped-up Google Chromebox and Google's cloud services to make setup as painless as possible.
The package comes with an HD webcam, a speakerphone, and a remote control with a keyboard on the back, and uses Google+ Hangouts for video chat such that any Gmail user can join a meeting from any laptop, tablet, or smartphone anywhere in the world.
Once a meeting room is set up with one of the Chromeboxes over ethernet or Wi-Fi, says Sengupta, there will also be no confusion over when the meeting room is in use: the service syncs with Google Calendar (or, in the future, with a Microsoft Exchange plug-in) to prominently display the schedule of upcoming meetings, and allow a user to start a new meeting just by typing a new meeting name into the terminal with the keyboard on the back of the remote. The system also tries to address pain points of meetings running too long, by reminding speakers when the next meeting is scheduled to begin, highlights users who are currently speaking, and will notify people who speak up if they happen to be muted so they can avoid embarassment. While the software free for the first year, the company plans to charge a $250 annual management and support fee to maintain the service and provide 24/7 assistance.
Chromecast for Meetings is available today in the US with Chromebox hardware from HP, Asus, and Dell. Australia, Canada, France, Japan, Spain, UK and New Zealand availability is coming soon, according to the company.