A revamped version of Microsoft’s Surface Hub conferencing system with a thinner, mobile and more interactive visual digital display will ship next year, but some of the best features won’t be available until 2020.
Microsoft demonstrated the Surface Hub 2 for the first time at its Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida, this week. Since shipping the first Surface Hub in 2016, Microsoft said 5,000 companies are using it in their conference rooms. The focal point of the new system, designed with commercial office furniture maker Steelcase, is its 50-inch, 4K touchscreen display mounted on a mobile easel designed to move from room to room.
The Surface Hub 2 aims to bring a more immersive and visual conferencing experience with a new shared whiteboard and improved integration with the software and hardware. In addition to improved cameras, speakers and microphones, touch-based biometric authentication will let users pull up their own files. The display is designed to tilt and rotate.
“We are bringing a lighter, thinner form factor that’s easy to move around,” said Ali Alpay, Microsoft’s general manager of Surface Hub marketing. “All of these features will make the remote collaboration experience not feel so remote. Frankly, we are doing all of this so teams can stay in their workflow, not break their momentum. We want to make collaboration easier.”
Microsoft hasn’t revealed pricing, but the company said it will release the Surface Hub 2 in two phases. The first, the Surface Hub 2S that will ship in 2019, will have the new thinner and mobile form factor, but will function primarily like the current Surface Hub. It will work with on-premises Skype for Business and support hybrid deployments like Microsoft Teams, The new shared whiteboard will enable conferencing with Windows, Android and ioS clients.
The Surface Hub 2S will have a removable cartridge that will let customers upgrade to the enhanced Surface Hub 2X.
The Surface Hub 2X, which Microsoft says will ship in 2020, will enable Microsoft 365 management and will support tilting, rotating and multi-user logins.
Microsoft first revealed the Surface Hub 2 in May, but the upgraded version has been anticipated by observers for quite a while. “They’ve been talking about this for some time, I’d like to see them get this out the door,” said Irwin Lazar, an analyst at Nemertes, a research firm focused on networking, communications and collaboration. “I like the fact that you can daisy chain the screens and rotate them. These aren’t for every conference room. There’s still a lot of education about the use cases for these shared-whiteboard conferencing systems.”