For the last several months I’ve been fortunate to have had early access to Microsoft’s Surface Hub. Surface Hub, in Microsoft’s words, strives to be a product that “reimagines the meeting experience so that you can unlock the power of the group.” It seems to me, though, that Surface Hub is going to do a lot more than that.
Since August our goal has been to take our Hub and put in front of as many customers as possible, and in some cases we’ve partnered with Enterprise Connect and Microsoft to achieve that goal. We’ve met with customers in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Phoenix, Denver, Atlanta, Minneapolis, Chicago, Philadelphia, New York, Cleveland, Houston, Austin, Dallas, Salt Lake City, and Washington DC. We’ve had over 100 private customer sessions where they had the chance to interact with the Hub and provide feedback about its capabilities.
Here’s what many of these customers have had to say:
- It’s not a video conferencing solution. It’s a collaboration tool that happens to do video.
This is an important distinction that most users understand immediately. Surface Hub has two HD cameras that provide a 100-degree field of view. It doesn’t have pan/zoom/tilt cameras, and it doesn’t give you a “Hollywood Squares” video conferencing experience.
It does, however, allow you to take applications like PowerPoint, OneNote, and Microsoft Edge and turn them into room-based collaborative tools with Skype for Business video. The embedded Skype for Business client on Surface Hub allows you to leverage those UC modalities just as easily as you could from your desk.
- You can’t manage it like an enterprise PC asset.
While the Surface Hub will sit on your network, it doesn’t join the enterprise domain. That means it doesn’t get security policies, group policies, or other domain settings in the same way that a Windows 10 desktop or laptop would. It does, however, fall under the purview of Exchange ActiveSync mobile settings. That means that you can manage Surface Hub using an MDM tool, like Microsoft Intune.
- The multi-touch whiteboard is great, but the apps are what make the Hub really interesting.
The basic use case for the Hub is easy: any space on a wall where there’s a whiteboard today could be significantly augmented with a Surface Hub. It’s not just the whiteboard, though. The standard load of the Hub comes with Microsoft Edge, PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Bing Maps, Cortana, and more. What gets people really excited is the ability to install any Windows Universal apps from the Windows Store. I’ve even installed Candy Crush.
The vast majority of one-on-one sessions that I do with Surface Hub take at least a full hour, if not more, and that’s not because it’s hard to use. Far from it, there’s just so much to do that you spend 60 minutes exploring everything and then you think of something else that you want to try.
Just about every customer that sees it has a practical use case for Surface Hub in their organization. If you can get in front of one, you should.
If you haven't seen the Surface Hub in person, we've actually got some videos highlighting some of the best features and capabilities that Surface Hub brings to the table. It's interesting to read about, but even better to see for yourself.