Surface Hub, Microsoft's touch- and stylus-enabled digital whiteboard for enterprise group collaboration and video conferencing, is getting a big update in 2019.
In a May 15 announcement, Panos Panay, chief product officer at Microsoft, offered the public its first peek at the Surface Hub 2. Sporting a new look and shedding the thick bezels of its predecessors, the device offers users new placement options, including a four-screen video wall configuration that creates an expansive canvas for Power BI dashboards, PowerPoint presentations and virtual meetings.
"The new Surface Hub 2 is sleeker, more agile and more affordable to fit any workspace or work style," stated Panay. In a single-device configuration, users can physically rotate the Surface Hub 2 from landscape to portrait mode and back again.
It's a departure for the Surface Hub product line. Hanging from a conference room wall or specialized stand, previous models were designed to be used in landscape mode.
Measuring 50 inches, the Surface Hub 2's screen has a resolution exceeding 4K, according to Microsoft. Currently, the only 4K version (3,840 by 2,160 pixels) of the Surface Hub is the 84-inch model. The 55-inch model delivers an HD experience (1,920 by 1,080 pixels).
Users of other Surface devices, like the Surface Book or Surface Pro, will notice that the display on the new Surface Hub 2 has an aspect ratio that matches the one on those devices. "The 4K cameras that rotate with the device, integrated speakers and far field mic arrays allow everyone in the meeting to feel as if they are right in the room with the rest of the group, while our standard Surface 3×2 aspect ratio means everyone has more usable space to create and collaborate," Panay said.
For businesses that may not want to wall mount the device, Microsoft collaborated with office furnishings and equipment provider Steelcase on a lightweight rolling stand that matches the Surface look and feel.
In terms of software, the device runs Windows 10, Office 365, Microsoft Whiteboard and Teams, the chat-based collaboration app that is steadily evolving into a full-fledged enterprise communications platform. Although Teams started as a rival to Slack and other workgroup messaging apps when it debuted in late 2016, Microsoft has been refashioning the software into a Skype for Business replacement, complete with the video conferencing and telephony capabilities.
Surface Hub 2 will also support a new multiuser sign-in feature that is designed to further encourage collaboration. Colleagues will be able to authenticate on the same device, allowing them to work together in the same workspace and seamlessly share content with everyone in attendance.
So far, Microsoft is keeping pricing and technical details under wraps. In an introductory video, viewers can glimpse some components that are going into the device, like the rotation mechanism and what appears to be an LED-backlit display.
Microsoft plans to release more information soon, Panay said. Select commercial customers will be getting their hands on the Surface Hub 2 in 2018 as part of a test run, with a full launch to follow sometime in 2019, he said.