Google recently announced that they are entering the digital signage market with Chromebox, which of course is running Chrome OS.
From my perspective there isn't a lot of news here and I don't think this is a "sweep the nation overnight" move, however, it does bode well for digital signage consumers in the long run.
Note, I said CONSUMERS, not the industry.
Digital signage for too long has taken itself far too seriously and as such made an island out of what we do - a narrow industry with a very niche focus. What did this mean for consumers? Proprietary software and content, complex hardware, and paying far too much for the use of those products and services. Not to mention having to pay to become an expert on all of that proprietary stuff and the need to run two marketing or communication campaigns. The one you ran for the real world that delivered your message via the web to the desktop and mobile devices, and then the second one you ran to your digital signage that you had to make all over again because of all of the proprietary stuff in the way.
How will this benefit digital signage consumers?
A Chromebox is a cheap, simple device, that is optimized to run Chrome OS, which basically means it lives to run the Chrome browser. All of which means that the same hardware running another operating system, which will likely cost you more than the Chromebox, does a poorer job of rendering browser based content. Why? We don't know. This is just what we have observed from running the two side-by-side. Video and animations look better on Chromebox versus similar hardware running another OS and the Chrome Browser.
Google's strategy is to make the browser the operating system. The desktop if you will. To do that they have to dominate in collaboration, living on the net, so that everyone, everywhere, can share and consume, with no barriers, to get things done. They own this. They have won this contest in my opinion. Now, they are trying to make these same tools work for those times when you go offline and to do this they have introduced technology called Packaged Applications. This technology allows developers such as our ourselves to build browser based applications that begin with the premise that they work offline, first and foremost, and secondarily, online.
Further Google understands that the format I consume on may be different than the one you consume on. Desktop, Mobile, Tablet, Large Format, Interactive/Touch and the list goes on. To make my message universal on all of these consumption points I need to make content responsive. It needs to shape and adapt to the medium that it is shown on. Google fully supports HTML and specifically HTML5's efforts in this direction and I think we are very close to the point of saying - IT WORKS.
What does this mean for digital signage? I create my marketing and communication message. With HTML. The universal, non-proprietary language. I make that message responsive. And, the content that I put together can be drawn from the content choices that are readily available for web consumption right now. Yes, I have billions of choices. There is no larger target market for consumers than the creation of web based tools, content, widgets, gadgets, data, advertising, and the list goes on. I no longer have to choose from the narrow offering of what my digital signage provider has managed to put together for their proprietary digital signage content. I belong to the web. I can pick and choose from what the web picks and chooses from. And the price I pay benefits from the sheer volume of those purchases.
The content that I can create, the HTML, can be consumed on any number of display formats and resolutions. One of which is my digital signage that is powered by Chromeboxes. They are cheap, render HTML content the best, and very simple to maintain and deploy. And a Packaged Application shows that content on that device so that if that device drops off the web everything carries on until it finds it's way back again.
So what's new in all of this that Google is bringing to the table? Not much really. Better Chromeboxes and Device Management of those devices, but not much more than they were already doing. EXCEPT, and it is a really big EXCEPT, they now know that digital signage is a format, a target consumption point, and it has slightly different uses and situations than anything they have run into before. And they are committed to including those use cases in all of their development and making it work for digital signage. Seems like a small thing really, but it is huge. It takes digital signage out of that narrow little silo that our industry has historically loved to put it in, and made it mainstream, and our consumers are going to benefit big time. Yes, there will be carnage amongst digital signage providers for those that didn't see this paradigm coming, but our customers and the industry as a whole will be far better off in the long run.