After Delays, Microsoft Finally Ships Surface Hub

Originally set to ship back in September, Microsoft's business customers are beginning to take delivery of the giant, Windows 10-powered digital whiteboard.

Surface Hub

Surface Hub, originally slated to ship last September and later missing its January 2016 release deadline, is finally being delivered to Microsoft's business customers, announced Brian Hall, general manager of Microsoft Devices Marketing, on Friday.

"I couldn't be more proud to announce this milestone for our team, customers, and partners. We can't wait to see what people, teams and businesses will do with Surface Hub," said Hall in a March 25 announcement.

From a deployment and management standpoint, Microsoft added Surface Hub support to its software-as-a-service IT management offering, Operations Management Suite (OMS), back in January. "Surface Hubs are shipping with the agent software needed to connect to OMS, so there is very little setup work needed," assured Microsoft Program Manager Laura Cruz in an Jan. 19 blog post. "All you need to do is configure the Surface Hubs to connect to your OMS workspace, which you can do manually or programmatically."

The touch-enabled Windows 10-powered device, available in a 55-inch and a massive 84-inch model, features built-in cameras, a microphone array, Bluetooth, WiFi, motion sensors and near-field communications (NFC). It runs Skype for Business, Office and OneNote, providing an integrated collaboration experience, and at least with the 84-inch model, an expansive canvas for interactive presentations and virtual meetings.

With the Surface Hub, Microsoft is making an aggressive push into the conferencing and collaboration market currently dominated by Cisco, Citrix and Polycom. While pricey—55-inch Surface Hub costs $8,999 and the 84-inch 4K version costs $21,999—it replaces several components that are typically required to outfit a conference room, including speaker phones, video conference systems and projectors.

For enterprises, it's an investment worth making, Hall asserted. According to a Forrester Consulting study commissioned by Microsoft, the firm calculated a three-year Net Present Value (NPV) of more than $850,000 based on the observations of five early adopters. The figure represents savings due to reduced deployment and management costs, improved sales, less printing and fewer devices to purchase.

"Organizations saw decreased printing costs of up to $9,000 in the first year, using Surface Hub with pen and touch-enabled screen to make changes and take group notes instead of paper copies," Hall said. Those early customers also regained 15 to 20 minutes usually spent on setting up video, screen-sharing and compiling meeting notes for an hour-long meeting, he reported.

Early indications are that Surface Hub may be a hit with healthcare organizations.

Some early pilots include AstraZeneca, the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine and the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. The latter is replacing its manual operating room scheduling system with an interactive digital display.

Microsoft also is hoping the Surface Hub finds its way into architecture and engineering firms. SHoP Architects, designers of the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York, is using the Surface Hub's stylus and touch support to explore 3D models, draw and annotate their plans.

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez

Pedro Hernandez is a contributor to eWEEK and the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals. Previously, he served as a managing editor for the network of...