Google has launched a video-conferencing tool designed to make it easier and less expensive to hold face-to-face business meetings even if the participants are scattered in different locations around the world.
The device, called Chromebox For Meetings goes on sale today for $US999 ($1119) in the US and will be available in the coming weeks in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the United Kingdom, Japan, Spain and France.
The price includes technology support for the first year. Customers needing support after that will have to pay $US250 ($280) annually. Chromebox For Meetings is being sold by Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Asus, all of which already sell an assortment of gear to corporate customers and government agencies.
Google said the box contains everything needed to set up a video-conferencing system that can connect people in up to 15 different locations. The company said someone simply needs to connect the device to a display screen and follow the instructions step by step.
The video-conferencing kit relies on several existing Google products: the Chrome operating system based on the eponymous web browser; the technology running Google's free Hangouts video chat system; and a suite of applications the company has been selling to businesses for several years.
Most of Google's previous forays in corporate markets have been aimed at competing with Microsoft's Office software and Windows operating system. With the expansion into business videoconferencing, Google is attacking products made by Cisco and Polycom.
The introduction of the new Chromebox also underscores Google's commitment to continue stamping its brand on a variety of gadgets, just a week after announcing plans to sell its Motorola Mobility smartphone business to Lenovo for $US2.9 billion. Google bought Motorola in 2012 with aspirations of building it into an influential player in the growing smartphone maker, but the deal turned into an expensive mistake.