Google’s Jamboard to begin competing with Microsoft’s Surface Hub in May

Google's Jamboard will pull your teams together, no matter where they are

Microsoft’s Surface Hub collaborative whiteboard has been available for purchase since July 2015, with 55-inch and 80-inch models actually shipping in March 2016. The Surface Hub has sold more units than Microsoft expected, and Google decided to jump into that market with its own whimsically named Jamboard announced in October 2016.

The Jamboard was originally expected to cost $6,000 for a 55-inch model when it shipped sometime in 2017. Google announced at its Google Cloud Next ’17 event that the Jamboard will arrive in May 2017, and will actually be priced at $5,000, as Engadget reported. Today, May 23, 2017, Google announced that the Jamboard is available for purchase in the U.S. for $4,999.

Google’s whiteboard uses a 55-inch display at 4K (4,096 x 2,160) resolution, with a soft-touch plastic touchscreen panel capable of picking up 16 touch points at once with support for an optional Bluetooth rubber-tipped stylus. That’s a higher resolution than the 55-inch Surface Hub’s Full HD (1,920 x 1,080), but Microsoft’s product supports 100 touch points at a time. The Jamboard is available in three colors; cobalt blue, carmine red, and graphite grey.

The Jamboard connects via HDMI and sports a built-in camera, speakers, and wheeled custom stand for customers who don’t opt to mount the whiteboard. Google has also packed in Chromecast support, meaning the Jamboard can easily mirror a remote device’s screen or stream content from YouTube, Netflix, and other Chromecast-enabled apps and services. Customer feedback compelled Google to add additional secure Wi-Fi network configurations, and Google implemented the Nvidia Jetson TXI embedded computer to ensure a more responsive touchscreen experience.

Android is at the heart of the Jamboard, although it’s a highly customized version that’s been optimized for the whiteboard’s large display and collaborative features. Add-on functionality includes “jam session” whiteboard spaces allowing users to sketch, draw, type, and scribble with handwriting recognition on or off. Images can be imported, a miniature web browser is available, and Jamboards can connect and communicate to enable multiple users to sketch from multiple locations.

Of course, collaboration is at the heart of the Jamboard. Google Hangouts provides chat capabilities, and iOS and Android apps let coworkers view sessions as well as add photos, drawings, and sticky notes. The G Suite productivity apps area also integrated, and a G Suite plan is required to use the Jamboard.

Google is offering some add-ons for the Jamboard as well. There is an annual management and support fee that is $300 a year if purchased before September 30, 2017 and $600 a year afterward. A rolling stand accessory is also available to make the Jamboard a more portable solution, and that has a promotional price of $1,199 through September 30, 2017 and then $1,349 thereafter. The Jamboard will be available to G Suite customers in the U.S. first and then will roll out to the U.K. and Canada over the summer with other countries getting the solution over time.

With cloud services growing by leaps and bounds, and organizations obviously attracted to digital whiteboard solutions that allow teams to work together across global distances, whiteboard solutions like the Jamboard and Microsoft’s Surface Hub are becoming popular. Now, Google will be able to take Microsoft on directly in this increasingly lucrative space.

Updated on 5-23-2017 by Mark Coppock: Indicated that the product is now available for purchase in the U.S. and clarified a few technical points.