Google's Jamboard goes on sale as connected whiteboard market gets crowded

What do the Google Jamboard, Cisco Spark Board and Microsoft Surface Hub have in common? They all expect you to live in and on their silos and stacks.
Written by Larry Dignan, Contributor

Google has launched its Jamboard for $5,000 and the reviews are solid, but the technology buyer is likely to be a bit wary as Cisco and Microsoft play in the market.

Simply put, Google's Jamboard is pretty neat for $5,000 and an enterprise or small business could justify the price based on cool factor as well as collaboration heft--especially if you're in Google's cloud anyway. Jamboard has its own tablet and phone app to make the Jamboard work and enhance G Suite connections.

CNET's Scott Stein breaks it down in a review:

I'd love to see it in my future office conference room, as long as someone else is footing the bill.

Jamboard's main function is collaborative brainstorming done via whiteboard scribbling. The app throws together handwriting, freeform sketching, photos, clippings and group-created post-it-style ideas into a live workspace that can be used in the same room and over remote Google Hangouts.

Fortunately for Stein, as well as other corporate users, the Jamboard is likely to be purchased by corporations and small businesses. And that's where things get sticky. These interactive whiteboards operate in silos and every vendor wants you (and your company) in one environment.

To wit:

  • Jamboard will run you $5,000 and a stand that costs $1,199 or $1,399. The catch is that you need to be in Google's world. Jamboard is a part of Google's G Suite and Hangouts. There aren't other options.
  • Cisco has its Spark Board, a cloud connected digital whiteboard that leverages the company's Spark collaboration platform. The Spark Board can be used as projector, whiteboard and audio-video conferencing tool. Without the cloud, the Spark Board doesn't work, but it has more flexibility. Spark Board will run just under $5,000 and have a monthly subscription fee of $199. Spark Board also relies on an app to work properly.
  • Microsoft Surface Hub started shipping in March and will go for $6,999 for a 55-inch version. Surface Hub has OneNote, Skype Business and Microsoft Office apps. Naturally, your collaboration efforts will revolve around Microsoft's stack. The Surface Hub can act more like a PC on the wall with a custom version of Windows 10.

Here's what I'd like to see from Jamboard and the overall smart whiteboard market:

  1. Jamboard looks like a big toy. That approach is fine for an educational setting, but it doesn't scream corporate even for companies that run on G Suite.
  2. Google's big whiteboard should be able to run Android apps at some point. This move would allow a corporate user to screencast Office or other corporate apps. While whiteboard collaboration is one thing a simple dumb screen -- as well as more computing power -- may also come in handy. Now the world may not need a PC on the wall, but businesses may make use of a giant Chromebook or Android screen. Jamboard looks very first version.
  3. To that end, these silos aren't going to work well over time. Sure, vendors want lock-in, but need to interoperate. Ultimately, a Surface Hub, Jamboard and Spark Board should connect and share. Enterprises aren't going to live on one stack.
  4. Let the pilots determine where the market goes. Microsoft has said that Surface Hub demand was stronger than expected. Indeed, a large enterprise isn't going to sweat adding a few big screens for a pilot--especially when compared to the telepresence systems of yesteryear. Enterprises should try Jamboard, Surface Hub as well as Spark Board among other options. The use cases need to emerge.
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