Microsoft Surface Hub large-screen collaboration device available July 1

Partners who have been selling A/V gear should like the Surface Hub, which Microsoft is touting as a product that will make traditional high end conferencing systems and displays obsolete, as well as replace projectors, wireless receivers and digital whiteboards.

Surface Hub sliderMicrosoft has announced that Microsoft Surface Hub, its big screen collaboration tool that the company says can replace a half-dozen conference room devices, will be available to order July 1 in 24 countries, which include Canada and the U.S. It comes in two configurations: Surface Hub 55-inch for $CDN 8,949, and Surface Hub 84-inch for $CDN 25,569. The 55 inch has a 4th Generation Intel Core i5, and the 84 inch model has a 4th Generation Intel Core i7 with Nvidia discrete graphics.

That sounds like a lot of money for a display, but Microsoft says that Surface Hub is much more than a display.

“In an average conference room, Surface Hub replaces a number of disparate tools and technologies, including the audio-video conferencing system, display, projector, wireless receiver, and the analog or digital whiteboard at a lower upfront cost,” said Mike Angiulo, Corporate Vice President, Microsoft Devices Group. “And when you look at ongoing management costs, the story gets even stronger.”

Surface Hub will have the capacity of a full Windows 10 PC, as well as Skype for Business, Office, OneNote, Universal Windows apps, and Windows Update for Business. It also benefits from significant hardware innovations in both touch and ink.

Surface Hub 300Angiulo said that this provides a collaboration experience that’s easy and engaging to use, whether it’s simply picking up the pen to launch the digital whiteboard or starting a Skype meeting with one tap. The technology permits multiple people to write on the display simultaneously with the pressure-sensitive pens. Those who connect remotely will be able to collaborate in the same fashion.

“What struck us is that while there have been a number of devices designed to improve our productivity as individuals – from the PC to the smartphone to bands and watches – there has yet to be a device truly optimized for a group of people to use together,” Angiulo said. “We set out to build a device that would transform the way groups of people work together.”

Surface Hub was initially announced at Microsoft’s Windows 10 event in January, where it really didn’t make big waves amidst all the other hoopla, notably the HoloLens headset. Pricing was a mystery than as well. Angiulo believes that the newly-announced pricing, which is competitive with the top of the line videoconferencing products from other vendors, while offering the ability to do more, will make the device ubiquitous in the business world.

“Our ultimate goal is to put Surface Hub in every meeting space — to truly create a HUB where people can gather physically or virtually to connect, share ideas and make decisions,” he said.

At a starting price of $6,999 for the least expensive model, it’s doubtful the Hub will make it into many meeting spaces that aren’t already part of businesses that have been willing to pay for large on-prem displays in the past. That price will have to come down somewhat, and it likely will, either through less expensive models or through the usual evolutionary process that tech adoption has on prices.

Microsoft confirmed that the Surface Hub will be available to channel partners through distribution.

“The majority of sales will be partner led where Microsoft will transact and fulfil through a two tier partner model,” said a spokesperson for the company. “Microsoft will have existing hardware sellers who can incorporate Surface Hub into their offering. Partners can also resell Microsoft warranty and add their own extended warranty and value added services. Microsoft will sell direct in a few cases, but Microsoft will fulfill through partners.”

“There is no doubt in our mind that Surface Hub is going to change the way groups work together,” Angiulo said. “Just as the PC revolutionized productivity for individuals, we see Surface Hub as a transformative tool for group productivity. We look forward to seeing how customers and partners apply their own creativity and innovation to this new category.”