Microsoft

Microsoft Surface Hub introduces low-cost telepresence in 4K

The teleconferencing phone hub doesn't cut it anymore. The Microsoft Surface Hub jumpstarts modern workforce collaboration.

Microsoft Surface Hub
Image: Amos Morgan

Meetings. It doesn't matter whether you work for a stodgy well-established company like IBM, a flashy new hip company like GoPro, or a company existing someplace between the extremes, you'll have to attend meetings. Unfortunately, for our sanity's sake, those meetings are often unproductive. Microsoft looks to change that starting today, July 1, 2015, when the Surface Hub begins taking orders from business customers.

Modern technology

The Microsoft Surface Hub is the company's all-in-one solution for the modern collaborative meeting space. Using built-in technology like Windows 10, Skype for Business, Office, OneNote, and Universal Windows apps, the company is looking to provide the technical catalyst for productive collaborative meetings.

By bringing modern mobile-aware features to an intuitive single device, Microsoft looks to replace old technologies like the conference phone hub, web cameras, and archaic overhead projectors—all technologies that have over time become the source of mockery and derision for their less than effective application.

The Surface Hub is available in two sizes. The first measures 55 inches and is designed for huddle spaces, smaller conference rooms, and offices. Its cost is set at $6,999 (USD). For larger meeting spaces, there's an 84-inch model that costs $19,999. These prices are not unreasonable when compared to what Polycom and other companies charge for their conference room solutions.

Old technology and modern meetings

The Microsoft Surface Hub is directly addressing the problem with Polycom and other companies currently selling equipment for the conference room. The meeting solutions provided by those traditional companies have become stagnant and inadequate for the modern workforce.

The modern enterprise workforce is much more mobile, international, and technologically sophisticated. VoIP and a conference phone hub do not provide the collaboration tools necessary for a truly productive meeting. Rather, productive meetings require tools like Skype, electronic whiteboards, and shared documents. This is the area where the Microsoft Surface Hub hopes to dominate the older technology competition.

Microsoft Surface Hub
Image: Amos Morgan

Bottom line

This is another example of Microsoft, under the leadership of Satya Nadella, being the company with the disruptive technology. This is a much different strategic philosophy for Microsoft, and it could prove to be very lucrative, but it is not without risk. For starters, many companies are too set in their ways to be willing to spend money on new systems and devices.

So, while telephone-based teleconferencing is joining the overhead projector and dry-wipe whiteboards on the trash heap of old ineffective technology, there's no guarantee that Microsoft's Surface Hub will be a hit. Polycom, for example, is not going to let Microsoft take their niche market away without a fight, especially since the two companies have been close partners for years.

But whether the Surface Hub is a success or not is not really the most pertinent fact to take away from this venture. What's important to note is Microsoft's commitment to break with tradition, to break old partnerships, and to take a chance on doing something different. The Surface Hub is similar to other recent Microsoft news like the deal with Oculus Rift, the support of AllJoyn, and the acquisition of Wunderlist.

This is the way a technology company is supposed to think, and this is the way it is supposed to approach everything. For the first time in many years, Microsoft is the innovator, disrupting the status quo. Welcome back Microsoft, we missed you.

Your thoughts

Are you satisfied with your current meeting and collaborative system? Have you been looking for something better? Are you interested in the Microsoft Surface Hub? Let us know in the discussion thread below.

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About Mark Kaelin

Mark W. Kaelin has been writing and editing stories about the IT industry, gadgets, finance, accounting, and tech-life for more than 25 years. Most recently, he has been a regular contributor to BreakingModern.com, aNewDomain.net, and TechRepublic.

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