Google has officially rolled out a new hardware package for Hangouts Meet, its new business video conferencing service. The hardware package, which includes a touchscreen, camera, speaker microphone and Chromebox, is available for $1,999.
Hangouts Meets allows for businesses with Basic, Business or Enterprise G Suite subscriptions to host meetings with 25 to 30 people, depending on the plan. Google introduced the new service earlier this year, and now the tech giant is looking to provide its users with a new hardware package to enable video conferencing.
In the past, businesses have been able to host video conferences via Hangouts with a Chromebox system installed in the conference room. Hangouts Meet, the newer version of Hangouts, and its new hardware package, include more features, such as recording and saving meetings directly to Drive as well as hosting video conferences with up to 50 participants. [Read related article: Google Jamboard: What You Need to Know]
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At $1,999, the hardware is more expensive compared to industry standards. It may, however, still be an ideal option for G Suite Enterprise subscribers looking to add video conferencing to their arsenal.
The new bundle includes four devices geared toward expanding Google's video call service to the conference room. The Mimo Vue Capture Capacitive Touch Display is 10.1 inches and offers integrated HDMI technology and a 1280 x 8000-pixel screen with 10-point capacitive touch. The touchscreen is used as the hub for scheduling and accessing meetings. Conferences can be joined directly from Calendar, where the display will show meeting details. Users can also pin and mute participants as well as add new members with the dial-a-phone feature.
The speaker microphone, designed by Google, features 360-degree audio pickup and works in rooms up to 250 square feet. For businesses with larger conference rooms, up to five of the speaker mics can be strung together using a single cable, allowing for more than 1,000 square feet of audio coverage. The camera is from Huddly and features 4K resolution, 120-degree range, and pan, tilt, and zoom capabilities. The camera uses machine learning to automatically zoom and crop faces based on who is speaking.
The epicenter of the hardware bundle is the ASUS Chromebox. The Chromebox has a fifth-generation Intel Core i7 processor and 4GB of memory. The device has a dedicated hardware video accelerator and automatically updates so business owners always have the latest software.
The hardware package also bumps G Suite Enterprise subscribers from 30 conference participants up to 50. Enterprise subscribers are also capable of hosting international participants and recording meetings that are saved directly to Drive.
For larger businesses looking to add a video conferencing service, the new Hangouts Meet hardware could be a good option. That is, if you're already a G Suite Enterprise member.
Hangouts Meet users only unlock the added benefits of the hardware if they are G Suite Enterprise members. The current rate for this subscription plan is $25 per user per month, with additional discounts for businesses that make yearly commitments.
Businesses will need some form of a G Suite subscription to host meetings with Hangouts Meet and its new hardware. In other words, if a business wants to host meetings, it needs at least a Basic G Suite subscription for $5 per user per month. Businesses can also use Hangout Meets without the new hardware by purchasing a Chromebox kit, which ranges in price from $999 to $1,999.
The new Hangouts Meet hardware bundle's $1,999 price tag is more expensive compared to industry standards. Microsoft offers Skype Business included in both its Office 365 Business Premium and Microsoft 365 Business subscription plans at $15 per user per month and $20 per user per month, respectively. On top of this cost, if business owners want additional hardware to add video access to conference rooms, they must purchase it from companies compatible with Microsoft, like Logitech. Logitech lists its hardware for video conferencing in medium conference rooms between $1,000 and $1,300, but companies can invest in more expensive bundles if they require more features.
For small businesses without G Suite or Office 365 subscriptions, third-party video conferencing services like ClickMeeting can provide video conferencing services and meeting room hardware to host meetings. The rates are based on a per-room basis and range in cost from $99 to $329 per month, depending on which package your business needs.
Google's new video conferencing hardware offers some great technology and solid features for G Suite Enterprise subscribers. It is, however, specifically geared toward G Suite Enterprise subscribers. For smaller businesses that can't afford the subscription fees and additional $1,999 cost, another video conferencing service like Highfive may be a better option. For larger business looking to either fully switch to Google or add a video conferencing feature to an existing Google subscription, Hangouts Meet's new hardware may be your best bet.