With Microsoft gearing up to begin shipping its Surface Hub, which combines videoconferencing and whiteboard functionality inside 55 and 84-in. interactive displays, the stage is set for the company to change the way organizations think about collaboration and sharing data.
Mark Skoog, CTO for line of business solutions at the Microsoft Technology Center in Chicago, says the touch-enabled systems are only the beginning of Microsoft’s effort to transform how people use everything from whiteboards to business intelligence applications inside their organizations.
Based on Intel i7 class processors, the Microsoft Surface Hub incorporates technologies such as Kinect motion detecting software originally developed for gaming software and infrared tracking software that is able to follow users as they move about a room. Users can not only make use of all 10 fingers to create a presentation on a whiteboard, remote users can also log in using Skype videoconferencing software to participate in the meeting itself.
A little further down the road, Skoog says Microsoft will incorporate the Cortana personal assistant software, which the company developed to make it possible to issue verbal commands to Microsoft Surface Hub and even one day allow users to invoke Microsoft HoloLens 3D hologram software to let users visually step inside Microsoft PowerBI applications. The cameras that are embedded in the Surface Hub systems, meanwhile, will one day automatically recognize users as they enter a room using Windows Hello software, which will be included in Windows 10.
While the 84-in. version of the Microsoft Surface Hub weighs in at 280 pounds and is priced at $20,000, the 55-in. version, at 100 pounds, is priced at only $7,000. At that price point, Skoog says the Microsoft Surface Hub makes for a much less expensive approach to videoconferencing and collaboration than many previous systems that are not nearly as well integrated with applications. The Surface Hub works with a bevy of existing applications such as Microsoft PowerPoint, OneNote and Skype. While a 280-pound Microsoft Surface Hub will require its own dedicated pedestal, Skoog says the 55-in version is light enough to hang on a conference room wall.
Under the leadership of Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, Microsoft has not only made enhancing productivity one of its core missions again, Skoog says that Microsoft is also no longer constrained by a mandate to only enter into business that generates at least a billion dollars in revenue. As such, the company today is becoming much more aggressive about bringing a variety of emerging technologies to market.
The degree to which Microsoft Surface Hub will transform collaboration remains to be seen. But the days when collaboration between large groups required entire conference rooms to be remodeled appears to be coming to an end. As such, it’s only a matter of time before these latest Microsoft productivity and collaboration technologies become more accessible both in terms of pricing and, just as importantly, what it actually takes to bring them to life.