Google, Aopen's new Chrome desktops targeted at digital signage

Google and Aopen introduce new Chromebox and Chromebase all-in-ones for distribution of information and advertisements

Google's Chromebooks are popular in educational institutions, but the company is now looking at digital signage as the next big market for Chrome OS computers.

The company has partnered with Aopen to develop a rugged Chromebox mini-desktop and two Chromebase all-in-ones designed to dynamically display information and advertisements.

Google has been targeting the commercial market for a while. Chrome desktops are being tuned for videoconferencing and for use in classrooms. However, Google's Chromeboxes haven't found much adoption as desktops, and Chromebases have largely failed as all-in-ones. They could get a new lease of life in the digital signage market.

The computers could be used as billboards placed in public locations, as menus in restaurants, or even as product showcases in stores. Google is providing more system management features, cloud connectivity capabilities, and software updates so the remote screens are easier to update.

Google has also made some OS improvements so the hardware is easier to control. For example, the device management feature will let system administrators know if a Chromebox or Chromebase goes down, so that they can then remotely reboot them.

New Google applications will make it easier to customize content based on location or time of the day. For example, restaurants using these computers as menus will be able to change listed items for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Hardware specifications weren't immediately available, but Aopen will start selling the hardware in the second quarter of this year.

The desktops were introduced as part of the Chrome for Work program, which is Google's program to put the Chrome OS in more businesses.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is agam_shah@idg.com

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