Lenovo expands Smart Office initiative with ThinkSmart Hub 700

Lenovo continues their strategy designed to make them a major Smart Office player, with the announcement of their second ThinkSmart offering for the Smart Office, following up their first, which just was released to General Availability.

In late May, Lenovo released their first offering for the Smart Office and collaboration space with the ThinkSmart Hub 500. They have now expanded that initiative, announcing the ThinkSmart Hub 700 at InfoComm 2018, as part of their strategy to become a major force in the Smart Office market. Like the ThinkSmart 500, the 700 is aimed at the huddle space of 2-6 persons in conference. However, it supports a broader range of protocols, has a slightly larger processor and has software sold through a subscription model, with the first year being free.

“We are super excited about entering the Smart Office space,” said Mark Krynock, lead strategist for the Lenovo SmartOffice Worldwide team. “We can bring disruption around different types of room needs and organizational needs. We can also democratize the sharing experience, with flexibility with software and hardware to allow people to connect from any device at any time.”

Krynock said that Lenovo made the decision to enter a space dominated by established legacy vendors because they saw an opportunity for a newcomer to exploit opportunities created by today’s convergence of technologies.

“We saw this trend three to five years ago,” he stated. “Companies are continuing to address challenges with devices and applications, but the challenges around workspace transformation are quite broad, with addressing the conference room and improving collaboration being a top of mind problem.

“We see this as a really interesting point in time, with these emerging technologies and evolving workspaces merging together. I think this is a really natural place for our Think business to expand into. We understand the personal space well as a business, but we also see pain points to be solved in the huddle space. People want more collaboration and flexibility in an environment where the conference room has been a mangled mesh of devices and technology.”

Lenovo also sees the Smart Office as a really, really strong market opportunity, that is exploding far beyond its present size By 2020, they estimate that commercial customers will be spending $100 billion on collaboration, on hardware, software and services combined. They see the presence of 50 million of these 2-6 person huddle rooms by 2020 just for the commercial market – 100 million if you add education.

“It’s a growing blue ocean of technology we can address,” Krynock emphasized. “92 per cent of companies are planning Workplace Transformation Initiatives to build Smart Offices. Some of this is around cost efficiency, but it’s also about creating more successful organizations, with retainment and with recruitment, particularly with the new workforce and their interest in coming into a commercial environment where they can collaborate with co-workers and innovate.”

Krynock said that from a design perspective, two things really stand out on the Hub 700.

“The Hub Controls at the top are within arm’s reach, so anyone can reach over and click a wheel to control the user interface, which completely democratizes the space because you don’t have a single person controlling the conference,” he stated. “The other is the audio design, which provides a really rich sound, codesigned by the Dolby team in San Francisco.

Two 2 HDMI ingest cables let users immediately and simultaneously share, and up to eight people can share simultaneously if there are two large TVs in the room.

“There are no constraints on sharing and on working  together as a team,” Krynock stressed.

One significant difference from the Hub 500 was that while that one only supported the Skype for Business protocol, this one supports both Skype for Business and Zoom at launch.

“There is also a Pass Through mode, which provides integrated support that lets you bring your own meeting like WebEx or Bluejeans, so you can take advantage of the system’s audio, room camera and room display,” Krynock said.

Another difference is that the ThinkSmart Software Platform management console is sold on a SaaS subscription model, with the first year being free. Pricing will be announced closer to the product launch.

“The SaaS subscription makes it easier to more easily deploy management devices and telemetry capabilities to help you drive a better business,” Krynock said. “The dashboard can activate single devices and view telemetry data on what’s happening, such as how many people are in the room, how many no shows, and how people are connecting,  so you can plan better utilization of the space. There are also reporting capabilities to get more proactive around servicing.” Proactive text and email capabilities allow contact with IT if there is a problem.

The ThinkSmart Hub 700 has a 7th Gen Intel Core i5-8350U processor – compared to the  7500T in the Hub 500 –  8GB of RAM and a 128GB SSD. Like the Hub 500, it runs Windows 10 IoT Enterprise.

The ThinkSmart  Hub 700 is scheduled to be available later this summer.