Microsoft's Surface Hub Cuts Conference Room Clutter

By Mike Elgan  |  Posted 2015-06-10 Print this article Print
Surface Hub Room

Those prices sound high, but they are a fraction of what companies already pay to buy separately all the necessary components—projectors, whiteboards and video conference systems.

They go on sale for pre-order on July 1 in 24 markets and ship in September. Those markets include the United States, Canada, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Qatar, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and the United Kingdom.

Microsoft achieved these price points by doing its own manufacturing in the company's little-known facility in Wilsonville, Ore. Microsoft's presence in Wilsonville was established by Jeff Han's 9-year-old, New York-based Perceptive Pixel, which Microsoft bought three years ago. If you recall, Perceptive Pixel sprung into the public's awareness when CNN obsessed over their Perceptive Pixel displays for coverage of the 2008 presidential race.

The current facility sits right next to Wilsonville's World of Speed museum, which commemorates cars and drag racing. The area and the state is a longstanding display technology powerhouse.

In fact, some of Surface Hub's competition has roots in Oregon as well. For example, Silicon Valley-based Polycom acquired the assets of HP's Visual Collaboration business and its Halo products, which were developed in Corvallis, Ore. InFocus, which makes the Surface Hub-like MonoPad, is based in Portland, Ore.

The Surface Hub wins in part by leveraging a traditional Microsoft strength—compatibility with Windows software—and, in fact, it's a Windows 10 PC, but it also relies on and two newly discovered Microsoft strengths.

The first is compatibility with iOS, Android and other platforms. You can participate in meetings via a Mac or Android tablet. In fact, the Microsoft engineer who helped demonstrate the Surface Hub for me was using a MacBook Pro.

The second is cloud-friendliness. Because the Surface Hub is a Windows 10 machine that's always connected to the Internet, any sort of cloud service works. So, for example, if you'd like to shoot off a note during a meeting, just open the browser, log on to Gmail or whatever, and use it as you normally would.

The central applications for Surface Hub out of the box are Skype for Business, Office and OneNote, but any Windows 10 compatible app will run as well. The aforementioned Microsoft apps have been built for Surface Hub compatibility—especially Skype, which stacks call participants along one edge of the screen, and OneNote, which is likely to be the all-purpose collaborative application for Surface Hub users.

Microsoft smartly created a conference room system that functions like a turn-key appliance if you want it to, but can also do pretty much anything a Windows 10 PC can do and more—especially if your organization creates custom applications for it.

Because of the Surface Hub's elegance, flexibility, versatility and low price, I think you're going to see them cropping up at scrappy startups, schools, university labs and most of all, inside the personal offices of C-level executives. Heck, I've got an Internet TV tech news show, and I would love one on the set.

The Surface Hub feels like a sure hit at this point. The combination of looks, functionality and low price is just what conference rooms need to finally move beyond their antiquated meeting contraptions.


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