The Google-backed Asus Chromebit is now on the marketplace in the U.S. and select countries, with the U.S. version priced at $85 for what’s billed as a computer on a stick.
The device is an HDMI stick that plugs into any monitor or TV with that port. It has built-in WiFi and runs on a Rockchip quad-core ARM processor. Storage is skimpy. The full specs are here …
At the same time, Google has revised its offer for the digital signage community, announcing a new service called Single App Chrome Device Management that offers core device management and monitoring tools for $24 a year ($2/month). Previously, Chromeboxes being used for digital signage came with an option Chrome Device Management Console service that was $50 a year, or $150 one-time.
“Single App CDM can be used with a variety of Chrome devices – like the ASUS Chromebit, which is available for purchase today – to share relevant content quickly and simply, with the flexibility and security to seamlessly integrate into a broad spectrum of signage configurations,” writes Vidya Nagarajan, Senior Product Manager, Chrome & Android, Google for Work & Education, on a Google blog. “For example, the menu boards at a coffee shop or cafe could be powered by Chrome devices like the Chromebox, Chromebase and Chromebit, running a Chrome Kiosk app that displays relevant, dynamic content.”
Google lists several companies that are actively using what it calls Chrome Kiosk apps, notably StratosMedia, Telemetry, Arreya, SignageLive, Wondersign, and Nutrislice. Some others that were at the Google booth at DSE – including much bigger companies than these – are notable in their not being mentioned (I know the Four Winds Chrome integration, for example, is still being worked out). The post also mentions its own entry-level Chrome Sign builder.
The post also asserts that Chrome devices, running in the kiosk mode that enables full-screen content, average a three-year ROI of 319%, with an investment break-even time of approximately 4.8 months.
“While the customer experience is enhanced, the administration experience needs to stay simple. That’s why we developed the web-based Chrome Device Management Console, which allows business owners to remotely manage their fleet of devices across all their storefronts. “We tried many different solutions, using Google for signage was the easiest to push, control and manage throughout the enterprise,” says Alan Mariotti, Vice President of Technology and Security at the retailer Chico’s.
The Chromebit was announced much earlier this year, and took longer that anticipated to get to market. I assume some of the companies that are using Chromeboxes for signage have had test Chromebits on their benches, but I’ve not heard much in terms of feedback, as to whether these device have the horsepower needed for signage applications. The Chromeboxes on the market are Intel-based, while this is ARM, the processor reference design used predominantly for Android-driven devices.
CNET’s testing suggests the device is significantly more powerful than its Intel-based rival, the ComputeStick.
If I can get one up here, it will be on order.
What’s interesting to me is that Google has lowered the barrier to entry for using Chrome devices for signage. That $150 or $50/year device management license that was in place meant a low-cost device had to add on new software fees that were, within two years, more than the cost of a Windows license. It was not mandatory that it get used, but certainly Google encouraged its partners to actively market it.
At what equates to $2 a month, it’s a nominal cost that end-users would be fairly silly to object to (though inevitably, some will).
These announcements come just weeks after news and speculation surfaced about plans to blend Chrome and Android efforts within Google. Some observers speculated that it was the end of the Chrome product line, which Google said Chrome was not being phased out, but there many reasons to draw the two operating systems closer together.
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for some 14 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Canada’s east coast.