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Google today is unveiling its latest hardware — a 55-inch, 4K implementation of a whiteboard, called Jamboard, that offers Google Docs-style collaboration, and Android and iOS apps that let others join in on the “jam.” The pressure-sensitive display, along with accompanying markers and erasers, will become available for purchase next year for less than $6,000, although companies can sign up for access through an early adopter program now.
In addition to being able to draw, add post-it notes, write with handwriting recognition, and place stickers, you can also run Google web and image searches and add web content to jams, as well as incorporating Google Docs, Sheets, Slides, and images saved to Drive. You can do Hangouts, too, thanks to an HD camera built into the bezel above the display. YouTube support will come later. And, eventually, Google will make it possible for third-party developers to build apps that can run on the device. After all, Jamboard is, at its core, an Android device, on top of which the Jamboard app runs.
But the team behind the system doesn’t want to simply let blown-up versions of existing Android apps run on the Jamboard, product manager TJ Varghese told VentureBeat during a briefing with reporters at a Google office in San Francisco. The idea is to provide an intuitive experience, not something janky, but at a price that’s considerably lower than alternative products. The 55-inch Surface Hub, for instance, costs $8,999.
The introduction of Jamboard comes a few weeks after Google showed off a line of new first-party consumer devices: the Pixel and Pixel XL smartphones, the Daydream View virtual reality headset, the Chromecast Ultra video streaming dongle, and the Google Wi-Fi internet router. Jamboard has a different focus, though — it’s for businesses. (The price says it all.) It’s a product for the G Suite — the new name for the Google Apps for Work portfolio of cloud services.
Before the Jamboard, there was the Chromebox for Meetings video-conferencing hardware and software mashup that was first introduced in 2014. And before that, there was the Google Search Appliance for companies’ on-premises data centers.
The Jamboard gives you the sense of having infinite space because you can swipe left or right from an edge to get to more panels — sort of like how you can just move in any direction on the Surface Hub when you need more space to work. You can pinch to expand or shrink things and slide things down to the bottom to put them in the trash. And when you want to share a jam, you can copy and paste the URL.
The hardware has some neat innovations. The markers and erasers don’t have batteries and don’t connect over Bluetooth — they just work, Varghese said. And there’s no cabling mess to deal with. The sole charging cable wraps up around the vertical part of the stand, just like on a vacuum cleaner. The device can connect to the internet over Wi-Fi, so you don’t need to use an Ethernet cable — but with that said, there is an Ethernet port. There are also HDMI 2.0 and 1.4, USB 2.0/3.0, USB-C, and SPDIF ports.
You can mount a Jamboard on a wall or keep it on a custom-made stand. Google isn’t disclosing the price of the stand, but it won’t be free.
Netflix and Spotify have been experimenting with Jamboards at their facilities, as Varghese points out today in a blog post.
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