Google’s first hardware product release under its newly branded G Suite work application team is a massive digital whiteboard.
Called the Jamboard, the 55-inch display screen looks like a giant tablet, only it’s connected to Google’s cloud and comes with collaboration tools that let multiple people in different locations access and share material through the device.
The Wi-Fi-connected Jamboard starts with a blank white screen where you can write and draw stuff using a stylus marker (you can erase with your finger or a separate eraser).
You can drag and drop photos or PDF files, and pull in files directly from Google Drive. It can also do photo searches or web searches within the device, making it a one-stop shop for all work-related searches. Once that material’s on the white board, people in the room can annotate it using the same stylus they’d use to create a new drawing from scratch.
Because everything on the screen is stored in Google’s cloud, rather than the device itself, that means people can access it from multiple locations at once.
So, for instance, somebody in New York could share the white screen with someone using a smartphone in San Francisco, who would access it through the G Suite app (compatible with both iOS and Android), and they could add content in real time simultaneously — just as teams can do with G Suite products like Google Docs today.
The content on the whiteboard ends up getting saved under a new file format called JAM, so people could save it or pass it around. You can also do a live video conversation through a Google Hangout, which is also embedded in the device.
Google said the goal of Jamboard is to make work collaboration easier, so people can remotely participate in meetings using a whiteboard, and not have to travel to contribute their ideas. But it’s also another way for Google to lock up its G Suite users within its ecosystem.
Google says early beta testing results have been great so far, as companies like Netflix and Spotify, as well as 30 internal teams have given positive feedback. Eventually, it hopes to turn Jamboard into a broader work platform where developers build apps specificilly optimised for the digital whiteboard — and make meetings and collaboration more efficient.
Jamboard will be available to G Suite customers under an early adopter program on Tuesday, and will be on sale starting early 2017. Although Google didn’t specify the exact price, Jamboard won’t come cheap as the company only said it will be “under $6,000.” The separate stylus marker and eraser tools will each cost an additional $9.99.
G Suite’s director of product Jonathan Rochelle said that the final price could change, and even be offered at a discount to certain markets, like schools. He said the team is first starting off in the business market to ensure they find the best use-case and price-point, but pointed out some of the teachers who tested the product expressed interest at the current price range.
“Their feeling is if they could get a couple of these at student collaboration stations for $10,000, they would do it in a minute,” Rochelle said.
Here’s a video of Jamboard: