It’ll go on sale next year to Google apps customers for “under $6,000.”
Google’s newest gadget is for your office: Today, the company is announcing Jamboard, a new cloud-connected digital whiteboard that hooks into its “G Suite” of apps for corporate customers.
The Jamboard itself is a Google-designed, 55-inch 4K touchscreen display that runs Android and a new app for whiteboarding.
It includes a built-in camera and speakers and can recognize up to 16 simultaneous touch inputs. (It can also tell the difference between human fingers and its no-batteries-or-Bluetooth-pairing-necessary stylus and eraser accessories.) You can mount it to a wall or wheel it around on a custom stand. Google will start selling the device next year, starting at “under $6,000.”
But like most of Google’s suite of business apps, the real point is the software and its collaborative cloud service.
As you might expect, inside a “Jam” session, you can draw, type, import and scribble on images and Google Docs, search the web in a mini-browser, communicate with colleagues via Google Hangout, and keep a digital record of your work in Google Drive. Teams using multiple Jamboards can work together on the same project in real time, as long as there’s internet access.
There’s also a full-featured tablet app for iOS and Android (so others can participate without a Jamboard) and a simpler version of the app for smartphones. Companies can test the concept just using these apps, though Google (obviously) thinks the huge touchscreen is a big part of the equation. It has been testing the software and devices with about 30 teams internally and with external partners including Netflix and Spotify.
The move comes as Google is trying to play a deeper role as a software-tools provider for organizations — ranging from its popular corporate version of Gmail to newer, cloud-based infrastructure services — and diversify its business from web advertising, which still represents 90 percent of its revenue.
Google is particularly proud that it designed the hardware and software in tandem.
That’s a concept that has historically been more associated with, say, Apple, or even increasingly Microsoft, one of its chief rivals in business services. Microsoft offers touchscreen “Surface Hub” displays, also marketed as tools for teamwork, in 55- and 84-inch models.
But Google is increasingly playing this game — see its recent Home speaker device or its high-end Pixel smartphones — and doing an impressive job. The Jamboard is certainly memorable, covered in a luxurious-feeling, matte, soft-touch plastic. (The team had considered fabric as a cover material, to fit in with conference rooms, someone who worked on the device told me. That would have been interesting.) And while it’ll be available in blue or gray options, the company will be pushing a bold, bright red version as its main color.
Google unveiled the device at a small press event yesterday in San Francisco, linked via real-time Jamboard session and Google Hangout to a team in the company’s New York office. The software generally seemed to work without any major lag or bugs, though some things drawn remotely showed up as a bit jerky on the receiving end. In a brief hands-on demo, the display itself looked fine, if a bit harsh on the eyes. And from my seat across the conference room, the screen’s glossy front coating reflected a bit more ceiling light than I’d like.
Still, it seems like an interesting option for teams that seek to collaborate more visually in meetings — especially those split among multiple offices or with remote teammates.
Don’t miss: Google’s cloud and enterprise boss Diane Greene will speak next month at our newest Recode conference, Nov. 14-15 in San Francisco. Click here to learn more and to register.