Google Jamboard is what the future of digital collaboration looks like

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Now that the Pixel and Pixel XL have launched against the iPhone, Google’s going after Microsoft’s Surface Hub with Jamboard, its own collaborative digital whiteboard.

The Jamboard makes it easier and more fun to collaborate with multiple teams on digital projects. Users simply write on the giant 55-inch touchscreen or organize media files on the display as if they were pinning things on a real whiteboard.

With a price under $6,000, the Jamboard will also cost a few thousand bucks less than an equally sized Surface Hub when it launches in the first half of 2017.

I admit, I wasn’t really excited for the Jamboard as I went into my briefing with Google, since it’s aimed at businesses.

But it all clicked into place as Jonathan Rochelle, director of product for G Suite, opened up a new “Jam” canvas and started working with media from Google services like Maps, Drives and Hangouts. People remotely joined in and actively added things to the canvas, too.

Jamboard is the right piece of hardware to tie together Google’s G Suite services.

Jamboard is the right piece of hardware to tie together Google’s G Suite services. I thought about how my colleagues and I work together on projects, and it’s mainly through a Google Doc, where we can see changes made in real-time.

My team and I could technically do all of the things that Rochelle demonstrated by copying and pasting photos and images into a doc (and by opening Hangouts separately), but it’d be a tedious multi-app and multi-step process.

Jamboard brings all of these tasks into a single giant screen that can either be hung on a wall or mounted on a stand with wheels. Google’s decision to make the back of the Jamboard red is both inviting and Google-y — exactly what collaboration should be.

Front

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Back

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But the Jamboard is only one component. There will be related Android and iOS apps, too.

The app for tablets will work more like a mini Jamboard with editing capabilities for anyone within a Jam. The phone app will be more passive and will not have the handwriting, drawing and video chat components due to its smaller screen (although that may change in the future update).

I gave the Jamboard a quick spin and it’s quite intuitive. The 4K display is Google Cast-ready, so you can fling any Cast-ready media from your phone or tablet to it, and the responsiveness is rock-solid thanks to a 60Hz refresh rate.

Jamboard comes with a couple of passive styli (about the size of a whiteboard marker) and a bun-shaped eraser (it’s just a chunk of plastic with a microfiber cloth). There’s also a built-in web browser.

The digital whiteboard is Android-powered, so using it is instantly familiar. Rochelle says his team designed it so that it would be natural to use: Just walk up to it, grab a stylus and start writing and drawing.

Tap a hamburger menu on the left side toolbar to access Google image search, a Chrome web browser and your Google Drive. Then it’s just a matter of dragging content onto your Jam Canvas. To erase, use your finger or the included eraser. There are also saw stickers and limited emoji to overlay on top of photo and drawings.

Jamboard supports 16 points of multitouch, pressure sensitivity and handwriting. It also has shape-recognition software.

Having toyed with the original Microsoft Surface tabletop and the Surface Hub, I can safely say the Jamboard is easier to use. As great as Microsoft’s productivity suite is, the UX design on the Surface Hub is anything but friendly; using a Surface Hub feels like work.

The Jamboard, on the other hand, makes collaborative work feel like fun. And that makes all the difference.

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