Taiwan-based device-maker AOPEN has formally launched the commercial-grade Chromebox the company first previewed at Google’s booth months ago at Digital Signage Expo.
Called the Chromebox Commercial, the device has long been awaited by software companies and integrators who are already working with Chrome, but were perhaps a little jumpy about the distinctly consumer-grade Chromeboxes already in the market.
The boxes already out there are plastic and have fans, and are more designed for periodic duty in offices and particularly places like schools. This AOPEN one is solid state and metal and rated for the heavy duty usage common to digital signage projects.
The units are skinny enough – 25mm – to snug in behind displays and still meet ADA requirements (ie screens sticking out from the wall no more than 4-inches).
Says today’s press release:
AOPEN’s Commercial Chromebox is a shock and vibration resistant solid-state device with a wide-operating temperature range (up to a maximum of 60°C/140°F*). Features like built-in hardware encryption and verified firmware boot means that retailers and clients can be confident that they will be protected from unauthorized breach of information or updates.
This also broadens the applications of the Chromebox Commercial, ensuring that it can be used in verticals where high volumes of classified data might be collected (i.e. government or health services sector).
Stephen Borg, Global Director of Strategy & Marketing at AOPEN, says the boxes have built-in Chrome hardware security, automatic system updates, auto recovery, and Zero Touch Manageability via the Cloud using Chrome Device Management.
“We’ve designed it so you can just set it up and let it run,” says Borg. “Its fanless, vent-free design means there’s no dust building up. You can install it and be confident that the Chromebox is going to continue to power your displays, 24/7.”
The product is closely tied to Google, so they come with options for the software giant’s annual or perpetual Chrome Device Management licenses. The perpetual is $150 for businesses, though I think it is much less for the education market.
Interestingly, the AOPEN box has a standard three-year warranty on the device, or an optional five-year. Most consumer devices are going to have one-year guarantees.
AOPEN also suggests that unlike consumer products, the product life cycle is long (so what you buy in mid-2015 you can get in the same specs 18 months later).
MSRP on the Chromebox Commercial is $429 USD, which will probably generate a seriously mixed response in the signage marketplace. That $400 is realistically what an Intel-based, solid state media player is going to cost these days (at least).
However, part of the marketplace hoo-hah (technical) about Chromeboxes has been around how a $180 box could do the job. There are Chromeboxes with faster CPUs, etc, that cost $400, as well, but those don’t get much attention in the signage marketplace. Both Chrome and Android get attention, in part, because of their potential to lower capital costs.
The units are available for pre-order now in the US and will be ready to ship this quarter to Australia, Europe and other selected regions.
Here are the core Chromebox Commercial technical specs:
- Intel® Quad Core N2930 with 4GB memory;
- Solid-state drive (fanless/no vents);
- Dual screen support;
- Built-in commercial ports to power POS and other devices;
- Auto power and auto-recovery;
- Long range WiFi A/B/G/N/AC – 2.4 and 5ghz;
- Built-in Bluetooth 4.0;
- VESA compatible brackets.
For companies like Signagelive, Stratos Media, Hypersign and others that have started working seriously with Google on ChromeOS as part of their technology and service delivery strategies, this is likely a much-welcomed announcement. As with displays, there is both a demand and more confidence in commercial-grade gear, even when the price is substantially higher.
It’s probably also a good move for AOPEN, as I am not aware of any other companies building an x86 commercial-grade Chromebox. The commercial volumes probably aren’t there for Dell, HP, Asus and other manufacturers doing the consumer versions.
AOPEN did very well by consumer-grade Mac Mini clones 8-9 years that started selling in digital signage and evolved into more rugged versions they dubbed Digital Engines.