Microsoft to Launch Surface Hub Try-and-Buy Program

Corporate customers will soon be able to take the company's combined whiteboard and teleconferencing solution for spin before committing to a large order.

Surface Hub Tryouts 2

Microsoft's giant screen Surface Hub white board computer is a big technology investment. At nearly $21,999 for the 84-inch model and $8,999 for the 55-inch version, businesses are justified in performing a thorough evaluation before outfitting their conference rooms and other meeting spaces with the device.

This winter, Microsoft is allowing enterprises to do just that with the Surface Hub Try-and-Buy program.

"We will enable a select set of our resellers to provide customers [with] Hubs for 30 days before the committing to purchasing a large set of devices," said Brian Hall, corporate vice president of Microsoft Devices Marketing, in a Dec. 12 announcement. "This will launch in US and European Surface Hub markets this winter, and in Asia Pacific at a later date."

However, Microsoft asserts that businesses are scooping up the Surface Hub. Although the company doesn't release concrete sales figures, the all-in-one, Windows 10-powered digital whiteboard and teleconferencing device has already shipped to 2,000 organizations across 24 markets since its March 2016 release. On average, customers order 50 units. One major, albeit unnamed, automaker has 1,500 Surface Hubs in its device fleet.

Microsoft first took the wraps off the multi-purpose Surface Hub in early 2015. Aimed squarely at conference rooms and other meeting spaces, the hardware combines a touch screen, microphones, cameras, motion sensors, wireless connectivity and other components that allow users to conduct virtual and in-person gatherings.

It integrates with the company's productivity software and services mainstays (Office, Skype for Business and OneNote), allowing users to conduct content-rich and collaborative meetings.

After encountering delays and a price hike, Microsoft finally began shipping the product this spring. In the months since, the company has extended inking support for Word, Excel and PowerPoint (courtesy of the new Windows 10 inking capabilities, in part) and simultaneous touch and stylus-based input.

The company has also begun preloading the OneDrive, Photos and PowerBI apps for more out-of-the box functionality. Surface Hub also now support a variety of third-party peripherals from Logitech, Polycom and others, allowing customers to capitalize on their existing teleconferencing investments in those brands.

Elsewhere in the Surface portfolio, Microsoft has begun shipping its all-in-one PC for creative professionals, the Surface Studio. Unveiled during an Oct. 26 media event in New York City, the system packs a generous 28-inch display that can be moved to a low angle that encourages users to lean in and begin sketching, editing photos or engross themselves in other creative pursuits.

Surface Studio is currently sold out, but Microsoft is still accepting orders. Prices start at $2,999 for an Intel Core i5 model with 8GB of RAM and 1TB of storage. The company hopes to resume shipments sometime in the new year.

Microsoft also reported that November was the company's biggest month in terms of Surface sales to consumers, although the company remains tight-lipped on exact sales figures. This year's Mac trade-in promotion, which offered current Mac owners up to $650 toward the purchase of a Surface Book or Surface Pro, was also a success, claimed Hall.

Jaikumar Vijayan

Jaikumar Vijayan

Vijayan is an award-winning independent journalist and tech content creation specialist covering data security and privacy, business intelligence, big data and data analytics.