- Microsoft says it's working on a second version of the Surface Hub, its $22,000 mega-tablet for conference rooms. Details are scarce, however.
- Microsoft says that big businesses — including half of the Fortune 100 — have flocked to Surface Hub, to the point where demand is poised to outstrip supply.
- The Surface Hub is a meeting system and a digital whiteboard that's designed to work tightly with the Office 365 suite.
Two years ago, Microsoft released the Surface Hub, a $22,000 Windows-powered mega-tablet designed for conference rooms and boasting an 84-inch, 4K touchscreen. In my limited time with it, I thought the Surface Hub was pretty awesome.
Well, I apparently wasn't alone in that assessment. Because Microsoft now says that in 2018, it will hit the point where demand for Surface Hub will outpace the company's ability to deliver them. It's not a huge surprise as availability of the Surface Hub has been somewhat limited and intermittent, with stores often running out of stock of the device.
So, amid that demand, Microsoft issued an uncharacteristic pre-announcement on Friday: The second version of the Surface Hub is on the way.
“Surface Hub created an entirely new device category and we’re thrilled with the strong momentum we have seen across the globe. We’re working on V2 and will share more in the first half of this year," a Microsoft spokesperson told Business Insider.
Microsoft is playing coy about what, exactly, the so-called Surface Hub V2 will bring to the table, or how much it will cost. However, Microsoft does say that it's planning to bring at least some of the mysterious new features to the current-generation hardware via a software update later this year.
A high price tag has not been a deterrent
Other than that, we don't know much. However, Microsoft released some new stats on Surface Hub today, giving a sense of who's buying it: The company now says it has sold Surface Hub to over 5,000 customers, including half of the Fortune 100 companies. Microsoft says it's the most popular of its home-built Surface hardware among large customers.
"Surface Hub is having a very successful run even given its high price point. The price point is reasonable, though, when you compare it to full room legacy [meeting] systems," says Patrick Moorhead, principal analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, who was speaking only about the first version of the Surface Hub.
As Moorhead indicates, the Surface Hub is a system designed for hosting meetings, both in-person and teleconferenced. You can use it like a whiteboard, with a custom version of Microsoft OneNote. You can make a Skype video call, taking advantage of its several HD cameras. Or you can just mirror the desktop from a Windows 10 PC.
All of those apps integrate with the Microsoft Office 365 suite — notes taken on a Surface Hub can be sent to the OneNote app on employees' own PCs or phones. And a remote participant can make changes to a Word document or PowerPoint, which is reflected in real-time on the Surface Hub's screen. Microsoft also promises that it'll get new Office integrations, too, including forthcoming support for the chat app Microsoft Teams.
It's these Office integrations that set the Surface Hub apart: While Cisco and Google, among others, offer digital whiteboards, none of them integrate as fully with Microsoft Office 365. And while Google's G Suite certainly has its share of customers, it's Microsoft Office that's still the gold standard of productivity in the space.
It may still be a few months before Microsoft's new version of the Surface Hub goes on sale, so if you've got an office conference room that could use a giant touchscreen it might worth holding off before making any purchases.
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