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Microsoft’s Surface Hub is now apparently a billion-dollar business (arstechnica.com)
400 points by Tomte on Dec 13, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 182 comments

I've been using one at work for a while now and I love them, which to me was a huge suprise. Its a product that finally got almost everything right when it comes to a digital whiteboard. And yes to another point that was raised here certainly integration with Mircosoft services was a plus. Its great to have a computer interface that is remote on half the board and white board interface on the other. You can mock up while you have the specs inches away from your face on a huge screen so everyone in the room can read and interact. The skype integration kills it as well; there's been a number of times I've seen teams huddled around the board mocking things up with one or two people remote.

Can you do remote collaborative whiteboarding? I'm looking at this for either having a Hub at each end or a Hub at one end and a tablet at another. Trying to find a way to bring geographically distributed team members (virtually) closer together.

I tried my luck in this space but couldn't get it off the ground

It's fully functional but lacks polish.


Small showcase:

- vector graphics/drawings created by freehand / writing http://write-live.com/d/dba21681-8d3f-4fbe-8b4b-e5c1983df934

- handles more complex drawings: (give it time to load) http://write-live.com/d/7fce10bb-bc39-43d4-a7f1-6bd0d60b9550 http://write-live.com/d/8f9b7846-a7b9-4e5c-b704-dad9aa87d14e

- unlimited* levels of zoom http://docs.write-live.com/WriteliveServer/webview.html?d=34...

- Drawings are stored in the cloud, and can be accessed by multiple devices simultaneously: co-drawing, draw on a tablet, view on tablet / web http://write-live.com/d/538254c5-7d31-41f2-83bb-bcd0a7cee7ab

This is pretty cool

So basically it deprecates 'static' projectors, that's the shift ?

It does that, but it does a lot more too, watch the video: https://www.microsoft.com/microsoft-surface-hub

I did watch 2 videos of ~10min. It didn't seem as amazing as I imagined.

Most of the features are remote + ink then mail. Nothing that revolutionary. Maybe I missed other demos (I can't find a video on MS website, I used youtube, various sources)

I think my comment was too easy to interpret as lazy sarcasm, I'm just trying to get a picture of what was the setup before.

I didn't say it did anything amazing/revolutionary. At the end of the day its just a giant TV with touch features. The key bit is they got 95% of "it" right, the "it just works" factor is huge. The integration with remote desktop, the feel of writing with the stylus, quality and feel of the plastic hub, skype integration, pulling off white board sessions to email, etc.

Yeah, sorry I didn't mean you oversell anything either. The article and thread mood made me feel this way. I understand the value of an out of the box solution versus a fragile, plug and maybe play in a workplace market. I was just trying to assess the situation.

I mean, it's like GoPros, or whatever. It's not like they invented something new; they just configured existing tech in a convenient way and it turns out to be really popular.

True that's what I was trying to understand. The thing is a "Microsoft Surface Hub" feels a lot more mysterious than a gopro which is simple a sturdy waterproof cam package, you quickly get the boundaries on your own.

Does the fantastic integration hinge upon using Windows as your primary OS?

A lot of MS software (Outlook, SharePoint, Lync) is not that great on OSX vs. the Windows version.

Im curious how well this works in an office of people using different operating systems.

Have to agree with this.

It's getting ridiculous the OSX support for those three apps and frankly bizarre given that BYOD is very popular these days.

So you're saying this is an Apple product from the Steve Jobs era, but with a surprising nameplate? ;)

No, they've nailed it with iteration 1.

The thing is, as a 10 yr office worker (ouch), the specs might not amaze, but the Works!-part does. The fact that it's integrated means it probably Works, while the earlier mish-mash of MS, Cisco etc left most functions hampering.

We have a great Android based touchscreen in the Office (ok, probably a hundred). But not connected (because security, obviously), with other solutions for VC (they bring another screen, or OCS, almost Skype). Most people just use Paper and phonecam to share. Thats just awful for productivity.

It's not really the specs, more the mindset and operations delivered by the device that I was curious about. I still haven't seen the best demo people mentioned here.

> I'm just trying to get a picture of what was the setup before.

The setup before was Skyping with a spare laptop or smart TV, and often having to call each other on cell phones because the service isn't working.

There's huge value to good integration. It doesn't matter if the specs don't compete to building your own with a projector, computer, custom webcam. Because no one else has actually built it, and if you do assemble it yourself, do you want your org coming to you for troubleshooting constantly? Are you going to build it for every company you want to chat with remotely?

In the old HN thread where Dropbox was announced, you see a lot of the same sentiment. "For a Linux user, you can already build such a system yourself quite trivially by..."

But the benefit isn't just having your own smart whiteboard. It's having a smart whiteboard that plays well with people who aren't able to build one themselves, and plays well with other services.

Also Slack, which (curmudgeonly) is "just" IRC with a pretty front end, as if teaching the marketing/design/billing/every non-engineer about screen and tmux was going to be a productive use of everyone's time.

Before there was nothing this integrated, you really see the power towards the end of the video there. Where you see people being dialed in to help tackle whatever was on the screen there.

Imagine three teams in different locations all collaborating around the same set of drafts, stake holders being called in from all over the place for their input. It creates a real-time flow of information that was just not possible/practical before.

Do you have a direct url to the video, I dug a few webpage deep but found nothing except html galleries.

It's the "Watch Video" link in the URl shared above. 45 seconds in.


Ok, internationalization changed something, I didn't have anything related to video even in another language. Thanks.

"In a Forrester report commissioned by Microsoft, it's claimed that meetings start more promptly—less faffing about to get remote attendees dialed in or computers hooked up to the projector—saving 15 to 23 minutes per meeting."

Yes, yes, a thousand times yes!

Every company I've been at, I've seen this happen over and over and over again, every meeting. I feel like I'm the only one aware of how much time and productivity is killed by this problem.

You are not alone. This is a constant source of frustration at our organization as well.

Even once everyone is on the Hangout / HighFive/ Slack call... If anyone's internet is less than perfect, the whole experience sucks.

I'm not sure this solves that problem. It's running Win10 with Skype for Business, a combination which I struggled and failed to make screenshare a PowerPoint document with one other participant just last week. We use it pretty frequently, and pretty often someone needs to resort to calling in from their mobile phone, like it was 1992.

We've been using zoom.us for a few years now and it seems to work pretty well. If your internet is too flaky you can still dial in.

+10. Also has an awesome Linux client that works flawlessly in Ubuntu and Debian, so we can do customer demos (@userify, if it matters) in the Linux+SSH environment that several of the more hard-core people here (including me!) prefer.

I hate their bus ads in SF, but the product rocks. I requested a Debian Stretch package and they made one for me the next day.

Spoofed brilliantly in this skit:


I know, it drives me nuts when people start joking about it too. Like it isn't funny, it happens every single damn meeting, it's a waste of time and incredibly tedious.

Interesting. The only time I've ever had trouble was in a really large room where we had to schedule AV staff to operate everything. Day-to-day conference rooms worked just fine, even with multiple cameras, monitors, touch screens, etc.. This is at multiple companies/industries over the last 6 years (before that there were problems).

I worked at a place with $25k/room of cisco teleconference gear. It worked great.

The problem (ime) is with employers unwilling to spend the $25k/room.

The last employer used LifeSize which is great as long as everyone is in a room with hardware. If you have a mix of people dialing in with laptops and people in rooms with LifeSize hardware it's hot garbage.

I have zero tolerance for this. I just refuse to use glitchy products, or refuse to meet with people who want to use glitchy telecom software.

Microsoft is killing it in this space because current conferencing technology is flat out horrible.

Despite the fact we have hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of conferencing technology at my work, I'll regularly see twenty minutes wasted at the start of a meeting with someone bumbling around with a mix match of DisplayPort, thunderbolts, HDMIs and VGAs. Then the software headaches of having to install some sort of client software, create an account and find the person.

The icing on the cake was a sales rep from Microsoft who invited us to a conference using third party software that required Silverlight and MSIE 10, and our Windows machine was too new.

It's great something is being done in this space, but $19,999 for a problem Microsoft is largely responsible for feels like extortion.

It doesn't surprise me that Microsoft is in this space, and that they're doing well. But who would have thought this was a billion dollar business? I figured that the conference room's tech begins to rapidly depreciate almost immediately after installation; but maybe this is something different.

Playing accountant here you might depreciate the thing over 4 years so $2000 cost per year. Against that the occupants of the conference room are likely costing > $1m a year in wage costs so you don't need a huge boost in productivity to make it worth it.

To put it in perspective, a single Cisco Telepresence device (you typically will need at least two) runs ~30k list (you'll be paying, eh, maybe ~70% depending on your relationship with your distributor). A whole 3200 system will run around ~300k (again, list). A device @ 10k is absolute peanuts. Take eight engineers, a few managers and a C-level and put them into a conference room with your organization's Boulder, CO branch's counterparts and 90 minutes of their time in salary is going to run about the same.

Microsoft is playing at the integration game. The Surface Hub is a knock-out, they gave it a decent whirl at the Surface Pro 4 (honestly, it's the best far note-taking device on the market IMO simply because the PixelSense display[1] is so stylus friendly - writing on it is nearly like writing on paper), and their very very crummy phone apparently is going to run native Win10 binaries on the new 4-core ARMs so they can leverage all those previous apps and throw them into the ecosystem.


The ARM announcement is targeting what they are calling "cellular laptops" that use 64bit ARM chips in a clam shell form factor. They didn't really announce anything around the phone, but its pretty obvious that something like that will be coming pretty soon.

I really wanted to like the Nokia 1520. The screen was fantastic. Man, it drove me crazy though.

Breaking the number down a bit more, that's < $10/working day.

If you have four people per meeting being paid minimum wage in the UK (~$10), you only need to save about 15 minutes a day for a basic hourly cost to even out.

I'm pretty sure I lose a few minutes a day waiting for a single meeting room to be setup properly, as the speaker has been taken one day, it's logged out, someone forgets a cable, etc. And I'm just one meeting in those rooms.

Rapid depreciation isn't necessarily a bad thing for business. iPhones rapidly depreciate, and iPhones are pretty much the biggest business on earth.

Not that I disagree that iPhones are big, but cmon, "the biggest business on earth?" This is a planet that has Oil business, Telecom business, medical products, rice, coffee, fish, illicit drugs, pharmaceutical drugs. There are other businesses that are in a class well beyond a mere consumer electronic device, iPhone or no.

AAPL, GOOG, and MSFT all have market caps larger than XOM


Sure, but the market cap is a projection of future profits, not the actual size of the business.

Saudi Aramco blows all of those out of the water.

Google has a massive search business that composes the majority of its profits, apple has huge enterprise contracts for stuff like apple TV and the like that have nothing to do with their iphones, Microsoft has the obscenely large business side of the operation that has little to do with the Surface.

> iPhones rapidly depreciate

I've never heard this before-- and in fact most people seem to say the opposite.

Just looked on eBay and according to recent sold listings, as of the past few days a 5 could easily bring $100-150 depending on configuration. That's a 4+ year old phone.

If it was $500-600 new, it has lost ~80% of its value in 4 years. I think you can safely call that rapid depreciation. Maybe less rapid compared to other phones.

I think people that have never had to buy an off-contract or replacement phone don't realize the actual cost of the device.

> Maybe less rapid compared to other phones.

Well, duh. I wasn't comparing the iPhone to an actual investment. The Galaxy S3 (released at roughly same time) is now selling for ~$50 on eBay (sometimes a bit higher).

Going from $500 - $700 to $100 is a pretty big depreciation in my book. I guess it is better than going to $0 if that is what you are comparing it to. However, if you compare it to a durable good I do not imagine it compares well. (Example durable good: well built wood furniture)

Compared to good furniture, yeah, but things like a car or a microwave will have a depreciation curve closer to what the iphone has.

Why would I compare to well-built wood furniture?

Let's do a comparison that makes sense. The Samsung Galaxy S3 (released at roughly the same time)is currently selling on eBay for $20-50.

It lost 85% of its value in 4 years. Most people would call that rapid depreciation.

The $100 4+ year old phones cost considerably more than $100 new 4+ years ago.

If it solves the problem with every meeting where the first ten minutes are spent trying to get the screen setup and the conference line open...it should make a gazillion dollars. Every meeting, every time...How does this work? Which remote? Is the projector even on? Can you see my screen? Which connector do I use?

It's painful.

Do people not set up the room 15 minutes before the session starts just to sort out those kinds of issues? That way it's only 15 man-minutes rather than 15*n man-minutes. Seems unprofessional.

Not when the people in the meeting prior are still in the room 3-4 minutes after the hour/half hour and then they all shuffle out laughing about how they are "sorry" they've gone over time but not really because if they were they wouldn't be the same people doing it again and again and holy shit I want to bury an ice pick in their faces.

Or when some guest is going to deliver the presentation and comes 5 minutes before the scheduled meeting, with an old laptop that refuses to work in that exact moment.

Sorry but do you actually work in a real life company ?

Nobody is coming 15 minutes early to a meeting. That's unheard of in all of the enterprises I've worked.

And with there being more and more meetings often you are literally running from one room to another.

I work for a very large organisation. I book rooms 15-30 minutes before my meetings start time and depending on what it is rock up then or 15 minutes early. I use the time to set up, manage any glitches, and then make any last minute preparations such as preparing handout material, water, etc... Sometimes I get 5 minutes of rest and that's nice too a busy schedule. Then people start rocking up and you build rapport with them until it's start time.

Coming prepared has saved me far more time that rocking up just on time and then trying to set it up only for windows to update. People also learn that my meetings matter because they have a purpose and we get right on it, saving up on people showing late etc...

Investing those 15 minutes of my time really goes a long way for everyone else which benefits me too.

You're lucky. In my building, you're lucky if you can find an available slot long enough to accommodate your meeting. Finding a slot long enough to book 15 minutes before would be near unheard of.

Then there's the perception thing. 20 people twiddling their thumbs while a meeting is set up is totally acceptable, but a single person monopolising a meeting room just to mess about with a laptop? Rude.

We're pretty impressed with our surface hub. As others have said, it "just works". The twin cameras are pretty good at picking up who's speaking and following them if they move around, and even though it's really not doing anything spectacular, it does it well and has that all-important "fancy new technology" feel that exec's love.

I don't work for any large company but MS hit the right spot because people don't seem to want to solve the problem themselves but just keep wasting time forever.

So here is some career advice, go be that person. You know the one who shows up early and sets up the conference equipment, be the one who publishes an agenda for their meetings and actually takes notes to send out as a recap. You will be amazed at how far the signal you are sending g will reach

Also dont make it a habit of just fixing the A/V _after_ the meeting has started, all that signals is your are a good proxy for IT help. If you know a colleague doesn't prepare show up early to help but dont continually swoop to the rescue

I love it when the room just has an HDMI cable that we can plug into. Remote viewers can't see it without the normal song and dance and sacrifice to nyarlathotep, but when it's just local... bliss.

I saw the prototype in Redmond over a decade ago, back then it was in the form of a coffee table -- very impressive at the time, but no clear business strategy.

In technology terms, this is a glacial age! I find it amazing they were able to persist and refine the technology into a successful product. Kudos!

Not everything branded "Surface" is "the big-ass table". Microsoft has been in this space for a long, long time. Ink recognition, remote video sharing, presentation are all products that have been in the pipeline in some way or other for a very long time.

I'm pretty sure these came out of the Perceptive Pixel acquisition back in 2012. Microsoft bought a company built giant monitors with powerful touch capabilities. Not the most high profile of acquisitions, but it definitely set them off in this direction.

Doesn't look to me like it's very related to the PixelSense.

Careful, Surface is now a brand of various computers, PixelSense was the old Surface Table with a display where pixels included cameras, but is now used to describe the new Surface's screen. So let's summarize:

* old Surface: a table.

* new Surface: a brand that started out with tablets but now includes a convertible laptop, a desktop, and a conference room computer.

* old PixelSense: a renamed old Surface with new fancy (very cool) display technology that includes optical sensing pixels, but seems defunct ATM.

* new PixelSense: the screen of a new Surface (high resolution, capacitive touch, stylus).

(disclaimer: used to work for Microsoft but with no inside knowledge)

PixelSense is a company that Microsoft acquired a couple years ago. It's unrelated to the original "surface" technology they showcased previously (the big coffee table you are talking about), other than sharing the same name. Surface is now just the branding of their whole series of first party touch enabled devices (surface pro, surface studio, surface book, surface hub)

That was the case a few years ago, but it is no longer the case now. See:


And compare to:


Two totally different things.

I think you are referring to Perceptive Pixel: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perceptive_Pixel

Really surprised by the specs and cost of this thing compared to what's out there. Might be the reason Google is making their Jamboard.

People aren't buying specs, they're buying an integrated experience. You can definitely reproduce the spec sheet for less money, but you cannot trivially reproduce the HUI or the research that went into it. It is the interface which is the USP of this product, not the hardware.

The Jamboard may be superior but the Jamboard doesn't exist as an actual product. We have no final demos, no release date (except "2017"), no specs, and no prices. When the Jamboard ships, only then can we draw decent comparisons.

> The Jamboard may be superior but the Jamboard doesn't exist as an actual product. We have no final demos, no release date (except "2017"), no specs, and no prices. When the Jamboard ships, only then can we draw decent comparisons.

Yeah, but it's Google. It feels like at least half their products that are announced with big fanfare either are never released, or released and then scrapped after just a couple years (Code, Wave, Code Search, ...).

What should they do to products that dont work? Keep pouring good money in them?

not hyping vaporware would be a start

Don't announce stuff you won't release? Like eg. Project Ara

As consumers, we might want this, but it's not a smart idea for companies. Their early announcements are tests to see if there's enough excitement long before the product is ready. If very few people get excited then very few people remember you never finished the thing because no one cared. Google, especially, is looking at these types of metrics early on.

This reminds me of a talk by Steve Yegge (an episode of the original old StackOverflow Podcast) where he says that the reverse is true a lot of the time. If you announce something and people find it lacklustre, they won't even care when you release the product even it is amazing.

Similarly if you hype before release and deliver, you will never be able to meet the hype that you set yourself and that will lead to failure.

[1]: http://stackoverflow.blog/2008/10/podcast-25/

Interestingly enough, Google has the best metrics with which to gauge customer interest - just tally up the searches for the product.

This is what company partners are for.

For example, my employer got to taste pre-alpha .NET, back in the day.

Wasn't aware of Jamboard. Thanks for the reference. Link for others: https://gsuite.google.com/jamboard/

They should give these away for free so that more businesses would sign up for G suite.

It's been over 10 years since Docs and its shocking how businesses haven't started using it. MS is trying to imitate those experiences but 365 in a browser is still painful.

The fact that you need an app to connect to Surface is so alien in my universe.

This could be a great launch point for a new generation of (very) smart TVs. Combined with what Microsoft is doing with HoloLens, they seem to be very well positioned for the future of communication devices.

The "board" part of Weiser's original "pads, tabs, and boards" vision [0] always made logical sense, but for some reason never realized itself. I'm a bigger fan of the tabletop form factor myself (see for example the original "surface"). It'll be interesting to see how this grows.

> to boot, it's a piece of hardware that it got right even in version one

Except it's not version one; see the surface and surface 2 before the current surface :)

[0] http://www.ubiq.com/hypertext/weiser/SciAmDraft3.html

That is an outstanding work of futurology! It gets a lot right, and the parts they get wrong are wrong for interesting and fascinating reasons.

Comes really close to forecasting the smart phone, but instead of an intensely personal device, they envision very similar devices that are shared and spread out through the environment. Surface Hub seems to have struck a nerve for the "shared environment" paradigm, wonder if there are still other opportunities in the "pads and tabs" paradigms. What could be done with "virtual post it notes", for example, whose content is always kept up to date, and placed in the context where they are most relevant?

Absolutely, though the biggest problems are the walled gardens. Personal pads are a thing -- the various assistants from google, ms, and apple will already do things like take reminders in the form of "remind me to x at y time" or "remind me to z when I'm at w". However, sharing those notes in a reasonable way still isn't a thing as far as I can tell.

I recently changed job. When I was at the interview for the new job (gonna start there in january) they had surface hubs on all meeting rooms. And this is in Norway so the reach is great!

Well Microsoft's market penetration in Norway is massive. To the point that if you see someone with a Mac you can basically claim him to work in media production and be right 99,9% of the time.

If it really saves travel then its worth something. I wonder how often its it doing an update when you want to conference.

Based on anecdotal stories about Windows 10 updating in the middle of gamers' live streams, I can just imagine the frustration of conferencing with an important client when BAM! Windows is applying updates, 1 of 198.

That is why corporations have the ability to defer updates if they want to. Personally I've found that shutting your PC at the end of the workday means the updates will always get installed then and not during the day.

Good point. I wish the large corporation I work for would do this.

In the fairly small organisation (1000+ screens in two sites) I work in the PCs switch themselves on overnight and do the updates then. I gather the updates are pushed from a server after being tested by the IT support chaps.

That is certainly ideal. Unfortunately, many (maybe even most) of the machines here are laptops which are taken home each night. I could probably overlook the Windows updates if it weren't for the noon full-disk virus scan every day, but that's a topic for another day :)

Noon full-disk virus scan even once a week is a great way to alienate your user base. If your enterprise AV doesn't support "start at a scheduled time or if sleeping/off start upon next wake/power on" then you need a new enterprise AV suite. If not that at least temporary deferment.

Yeah, laptops are a pain. We have laptop trollies with 30 machines in each trolley (education). The techies pull in each trolley in rotation to do updates.

A lot of the anecdotal stories occur because Windows defaults its "don't update during these hours" to the 9-5 business hours and most gamers obviously aren't gaming during 9-5. On the flipside, the 9-5 default should work great for the Hub.

Very impressive entrance into what I thought would have been a well mature market by this point.

If Microsoft has managed to make it "just work" (I don't know if they have, but that was the pitch IIRC), then I can understand the enthusiasm. Most of the existing solutions have all the features you need, but fall on their face in the case of reliability and ease of just setting up a meeting. Being able to say "no more 10 minute scrambles at the beginning of meetings to get the tech working" is probably worth a lot.

They do kinda "just work". Less valuable if you'r not on 0365/Skype for Business, but it's a Microsoft product so that makes sense.

This x 1000. It boggles the mind that in the last 20 years most remote meetings/presentations I witnessed involve this kind of futzing.

Speaking of falling flat with this domain of tech, I always felt that way about those Epson smart projectors where you had to use the special battery powered styluses to interact with it. No one ever used them because it was such a hassle to configure for relatively low (sometimes negative) productivity gains. Comparatively, I found the Surface Hubs to be easy enough that any additional effort needed to get up and running is offset by the productivity gains.

You would be astounded to know how many offices are still getting by with a single DLP projector and screen.

That's for the advanced ones. We have whiteboard, which actually are pretty efficient.

Or with a fancier system involving a TV and a high-end camera on top, with a separate tablet-like device for operating it (enabling conference mode etc). Those have a proprietary OS though, don't work with regular Microsoft products.

Integration with Microsoft services is probably a good selling point .

Skype is the big plus. A few jobs ago I was at a place that had a horifically expensive videoconferencing system in the meeting room... that we'd all ignore and use Skype instead, because it worked better.

Also known as 'lock-in' in some contexts.

> Also known as 'lock-in'

It does increase lock-in of course. I would argue that so many companies are already heavily invested in M$ that this is unlikely to affect relative lock-in hugely.

To put it another way, if I'm already in prison and someone buys me a comfy chair, I'm likely to appreciate it.

By that analogy, if you're already in prison then you should be plotting an escape path, not get chummy with the guards.

Interestingly this "lock-in" argument is often used with respect to Microsoft, but not with respect to Apple...

Be fair. I've seen the lock-in argument used all the time here in regards to Apple stuff, particularly in discussions of iOS, macOS, and the App store.

Perhaps it's my surrounding and thus not representative, but when talking about Apple they talk about "integration", while when talking about Microsoft, the word "lock-in" is used - for quite similar things.

by that logic.. if people need oxygen for breathing.. you would consider that a lock-in..

That analogy only works if I was paying for my oxygen. Currently I am not.

I agree. When it comes to hardware, Microsoft has a persistence to stick it out and eventually get it right.

Have two in our office's. They are great. 365 integration, Skype and the whiteboard are fantastic.

The Microsoft Hub is fine and dandy... but it is very limiting in it's ability to integrate with any and all meeting participants. It's great if everyone all worked off Microsoft products, but they do not.

Example: I am in an office where 90+% of people work with Macs and iOS products. The integration between those two is not seamless by any make or measure. I would rather have a product that worked between the two than a single product trying to mold it's way into the entire space.

iOS seems to actively avoid integration with anything.

How good is the remote audio and video quality? Is it on skype level?

Skype sucks in audio and video quality and those are really important to my company.

We have a solution from Cisco which had excellent video and audio quality sadly it's just a Tv that can call another Cisco TV and share the screen including a very good webcam. No whiteboard features or something like that, no touchscreen. Except the small tablet to control the thing

This uses Skype for Business, formerly Lync, which is different tech than Skype-the-consumer-app. Skype for Business connects though your own network infrastructure, and uses your own servers (or Office 365 hosted ones). Quality is about as good as it gets - depending on the latency and bandwidth of your network of course.

Cisco has PC based video conference and/or can make the Lync or Skype for business to work with it. So you can call other folks on PC and have the room join as well.

We've got on here and I was surprised how much time I (not in IT, but sit near the Surface Hub) got wrangled into helping IT support this thing. The problem seems to stem from it being a phone underneath, in the OS (error messages will occasionally mention this). IT has trouble wrapping their head around that it is not a regular Surface, which they have rolled out boat loads of, successfully.

In addition, you can't really install anything on it, so it's tough / impossible to meet automated compliance checking (AV in place, etc.).

I guess this is really an IT group not trying hard to support it, but it was an eye opener to see the round peg / square hole thing going on.

Having said that, it's a nice whiteboard / Skype appliance. Nobody mentions the stand. It's built like a tank and finished really cleanly. Also would be nice if it weighed less. Smaller people really have to lean into it to move it.

I'm surprised by this as well, but I wonder how many of them were bought as "trophy" purchases, put on display in the lobby and the CEO's office.

"The average Surface Hub customer is buying about 50 devices for each deployment...(and) One (unnamed) car manufacturer bought 1,500 of the thing"

Sounds like people are actually rolling them out through all their conference rooms

I have a large client who has them in every conference room, team room, meeting space, etc. They even have them in some of their large public lounges, constantly connected to lounges at their other campuses around the world.

Kinda cool to sit down with a coffee and have a quick chat with someone in another country, like internal chat-roulette.

I wonder if the car manufacturer wants them for show rooms?

I could imagine a surface hub could make a very fancy virtual catalogue for going through the manufacturers full range of models, trim levels and options for instance. Maybe something a higher-end brand would be interested in (after all such dealerships often abound with fancy furniture for customers)?

Most USA car manufacturers don't have showrooms. There's only Tesla (AFAIK), and they've had issues with various state laws to prevent that sort of ownership.

The dealers are all independent, and they might want to purchase something like this. They have been moving away from paper catalogs...

That's actually a pretty decent theory.

But you could do this much cheaper with a cheap Windows or ChromeOS device connected to a touch display. Paying $8000+ would be completely unreasonable.

Because the Surface Hub is an integrated device, there are savings in:

* purchase research - deciding what parts to buy and making sure they'll all work out of the box and that the computer is fast enough to support what people will be doing with it

* physical setup - hooking up those external PCs and peripherals and making sure they are all working like an appliance so that you don't need an IT person "turn it on" for the salesperson before every meeting, etc.

* support - if something goes wrong, you're talking to Microsoft, without figuring out which part is broken and then figuring out who to call

Considering a decent 1080p 55" touch display is probably going to run you around $3K (and it doesn't have active pen support), I'm not sure $9K is that unreasonable for a business, especially if it stays in operation for five years or more.

-- edit: i realized the parent was responding to the to car showrooms comment and not boardrooms after the fact - but left the post here for the context of boardrooms

They could also get cheap furniture but appear to splash out on fancy stuff. The feeling of wealth and technology is important to high-end car brands.

I suspect a fully-fledged surface will seem a lot more fluid and interesting than a PC with touch display. Think Android 2.3 vs latest iOS (or indeed vs iOS of the android 2.3 era).

That's quite an investment, hopefully the decision was made with some input from the engineering teams that, I would imagine, be making use of the seats. I've seen procurements of this scale go both ways in that regard.

I'm happy for Microsoft, I get the feeling that they are really trying now and it is always a pleasure to see strong innovations and competition.

This spells trouble for Cisco and friends. MS can use the Hub as a foothold into your phone system, and BAM! Out go all those expensive, obscure and clunky Cisco voip systems, replaced with some MS cloud-based solution that is 100x cheaper and integrates with Skype and LinkedIn.

The integration with OneNote is quite killer as well - you can plug in your laptop, draw as much as you want (collaboratively) on an infinitely-scrolling whiteboard, and then have all the notes from the meeting saved, digitized, and searchable, and shared with all participants.

OneNote plus a surface pro 3 were game changing for me in school. All of my notes digitized and accessible for study from my phone or whatever, an infinite whiteboard, a tablet + stylus that actually let me take written notes. They have a writing-to-text feature as well that unfortunately doesn't work too well, but we can't have everything I suppose. That feature requires an Office subscription though. Meh.

Does anyone have a link to the promo video of the original Surface, the table in a restaurant version? It's soundtrack had a song I loved, can't remember the artist, and the version was different from the studio version.

Is it this video?


Google Assistant tells me the song is "Out of Time" by Levitation (but I didn't click the track to listen so it may be wrong).

No, not this one. The one I'm talking about had people talking about the product and how you could use it. The part with the song I'm talking about was a food restaurant setting (as opposed to a bar setting)

Edit: The one I have in mind was more like this one in terms of setting - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SRU3NemA95k

The "big ass table". I love that thing.

Will have to check it out! The company I'm at has more Chrome boxes than rooms, running meetings with Google Hangouts, but everyone hates them. The controllers randomly stop working and only start again if the dongle is unplugged and replugged or the box is rebooted, not to mention tons of other flakey issues the past week or two particularly. Our leadership complains about wasting 5 minutes of every meeting getting the Chrome boxes working.

Humm, maybe depends on which Chrome Box you choose. In my experience they work very well, only needing a reboot every now and then.

The main issue is people not taking care of equipment in shared spaces like meeting rooms. The technology is usually the least of your problems.

This is horribly true. VGA is still the most-likely-to-work interface for presentations. Which is pretty funny when you consider the elaborate signal path including analog on a wire. Must be getting on for 30 years in standard use.

Considering how many "smart boards" our little community college buys, if it works at all well, I can see how it would be a big seller in the category.

Uhg, those "smart boards" are terrible. I'm trying to get ours to give up and just buy TVs and projectors. It's amazing what a company can achieve by focusing on education and claiming to be tailor-fit.

The software is terrible, but the ability to draw on the board keeps us from having just a TV / projector. We put up with it because of the added capability.

It's a nice feature, I just see people struggling with it far too often. The software is a huge stumbling point, and the finish on the TV versions really detracts from the benefits of 4k.

All true, but I'm stuck until I have a budget and a better solution. I might give Microsoft a try on the next go around.

Yeah, I'll certainly be seeing if we can try these if/when we get some funding for another "Smart" brand product.

Is it actually a product people love or just a product companies buy? The Skype integration seems like a bit of a red flag.

Aside from the crappy mobile app, Skype for Business (formerly Lync - has nothing to do with the consumer version of Skype) is pretty excellent when it's deployed correctly.

I totally agree. I got forwarded a skype for business invite this morning for a meeting with Microsoft and I haven't used it before. I clicked on the link followed the instructions, which meant installing a pkg on my mac.

The thing that struck me was that after installing the pkg I got taken straight to the conference - I didn't have to go back to the link, put any ID / PIN or anything. It was seamless.

The seamless redirect after install is a nice touch. However the "receive link in email for software/plugin download to install so you can do this important thing" harkens back to earlier times and is the classic malware infection scenario. I guess it still works because enough people still do it.

Jitsi Meet beats that hard by not having any package to install in the first place: https://jitsi.org/Projects/JitsiMeet, https://meet.jit.si/

Personally I've always found it to be inferior to Hangouts and Facetime.

Maybe, but those can't be deployed on a company's network.

It's funny because here in silicon valley I've seen many conference rooms setup with Google Hangouts for video conference and Apple TV for presenting locally. Never see any Microsoft or Cisco stuff.

Seems that's a self-inflicted problem by corporate IT.

A red flag? Skype for Business is kind of the standard communications platform for large/enterprise companies.

Meetings and printing/scanning are two areas where I lose so much time doing nothing. Now only if someone made printing scanning far more simpler and glitch free.

We have a few at work in our new building, I really love them. They're very nice to write on, very responsive and fast, and you can wheel them around - brilliant.

Wow, companies are spending on average between $450k to $1M per deployment on these things. You don't need too many customers to reach $1B at that price.

When I was working on www.kokonaut.com in 2012, my vision for it was a mix between Slack and Surface Hub. The closest thing I've seen was Bluescape.

How does the Whiteboard work on this and is it effective?

My company is using DiplayTen for our meeting rooms. They are partnered with Zoom Communications and they are able to seamlessly integrate both PC and Mac users as they join into Zoom Rooms.

Also meeting room participants can effortlessly participate using a PC/Mac dongle to share content to the boards wirelessly.

The Hub may be a shiny new Cadillac but like them, require constant professional maintenance. The DisplayTen board we use was out of the box and set up in a matter of minutes with updates done in a simple and timely matter.

Didn't they try to offer something similar with the Xbox One? That may have mostly been targeted at consumers though.

The Xbox One is a combination of game console and DVR. It has no features designed specifically for workplace conferences, but of course there are tons of apps so it's possible some workplaces are using it that way. In between rounds of Call of Duty.

I would not be so surprised. MS have, beyond playing dirty, been good at coming up with tools for the office sphere.

Plus, it lets Microsoft eavesdrop on business meetings worldwide.

This is much much better and cheaper https://www.acrossio.com

Totally different. That is a web-based chat app. MS is selling a large monitor which has chat, whiteboarding, etc, which doesn't depend on a third-party server to run. If that company goes under a year from now, you have to find another app, retrain everyone to use it, etc. Plus, it doesn't have any hardware, so you still need to set up cameras, microphones, fuss with them if things don't work right, etc. That's what MS is selling, something that's plug and play.

If you look closer, it's not a chat app.

It actually records all meetings or meaningful team interactions (video mainly) and it allows people to bookmark the moments and put context. After the end of the meeting, all bookmarks, tasks etc are saved and you can share important points with people that could not be there.

The most amazing thing is that you can mention people with permalinks that get you in the exact time something was said.

Now, can it run on a hardware like Microsoft of whatever? YES

but the innovation is in the concept of LIVING MEETINGS that they live after their end, since people can go in and socially enlive them :)

Unfortunate name.

We are using a 70 inch from DisplayTen, bundle with Zoom Video conferencing, it's much better than the skype for business, especially when we have slow internet in our office. The whiteboard and wireless sharing are great, Zoom is fantastic.

Really? We're calling it a "hit" already? How many have they sold? I don't know anyone who has one, and most people I know don't even know it exists.

Once again Peter Bright being the ultimate Microsoft shill. (I knew this was him before even clicking on the article just from the headline.)

2000 customers, average of 50 devices per customer, average of $15000 per devices

2000 * 50 * $15000 = $1.5 billion

I think that objectively counts as a hit...

We are using DisplayTen for our meeting rooms, bundle with Zoom video conferencing, which works better than skype for business when slow internet in our office. The Wireless sharing dongle is the killer app.

Google's entrant into the Conference Room Tech market is their Chromebox for Meetings. It doesn't do the whiteboarding, but it's an easy and cheap way to put a webcam/speaker/mic into a conference room that integrates well with Google Calendar.

Obviously it makes the most sense for companies with "G Suite" as employees can then use gCal to book conference rooms, set up Hangouts video chats in the rooms, etc.

And Google's product costs one-tenth as much. I know there's no way I'd get a budget to spend $7k/room at my company, given we only spend $500/room for furniture the last time we redid them.

Having an ok experience with them at my company. Occasionally one needs reimaging but overall I forget they are there.

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