Google's Techy Whiteboard Promises Better Learning, but at What Price?

So long, pencil and paper. We barely knew ye.

By Alex Lauer

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25 May 2017

If you’ve got kids in school, you know all about Google’s full-court press on the classroom.

Now, the omnipresent tech giant is here with a shiny new toy to dangle in front of your office: the Jamboard.

On sale as of Tuesday, the 55-inch digital, interactive whiteboard boasts 4K resolution, easy-on-the-eyes design and features that (supposedly) make collaborating with coworkers in and out of the office a breeze.

It integrates video chat and internet searches, corrects your abysmal handwriting, connects seamlessly with G Suite apps, offers 16 simultaneous touch points — and the whole gamut can be seen and manipulated by anyone with a connected Jamboard or companion Android and iOS apps (though these have yet to be released). 

Oh, and because we’re all serious adults here, you can use emojis and take selfies.

Yet, it’s impossible to release a new tech product without online commenters decrying it as not innovative enough or even derivative. For the Jamboard, its release comes after the substantively similar Cisco Spark Board and Microsoft Surface Hub.

So if your office is looking to upgrade from dry erase markers, which company has the real whiteboard of the future?

Well, despite the upbeat video for Jamboard that seems to say we’re the cool kid whiteboard, you’re basically stuck choosing the version that fits with the applications your office is already connected to.

Jamboard can only be used with a G Suite plan. The Cisco Spark Board has its own cloud service and app. The Surface Hub connects to Microsoft Office, as well as partnered apps like Skype. So it’s easiest to lie in the bed you’ve already made.

For those in Google’s sheets, the $5K price point for the Jamboard is just the beginning. Apart from the required G Suite plan, you’ll also have to pay a $600 annual “management and support fee” and $1.2K if you want one of the slick rolling stands instead of the included wall mount.

So many decisions. But hey, it takes selfies.

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