Microsoft Shows Off the Surface Hub

microsoft surface hubMicrosoft had a large area that it occupied along with partners, to promote its Surface Hub product. (Maverick: “Surface Hub is a Game Changer”).

The product is built around either an 84″ (Intel core i7) or 55″ (Intel core i5) procap touch display (using the technology acquired with Perceptive Pixel) with UltraHD resolution. 100 touches can be resolved and the refresh rate is 120Hz. The system is said to be “ruggedised”. The panels come from LG Display (although the firm was not keen to discuss this). The display includes a full system unit that runs a cut down version of Windows 10. The system is designed to “reset to clean” every time it powers up.

The O/S is designed to run just the main collaboration software (a skinned version of OneNote and also Skype for Business are the main ones, but there is also a Connect app.). Administrators can install other applications, but users cannot. This means that the system can be configured for special applications in areas such as engineering and graphics.

There is a motion sensor and the system can recognise when somebody comes to the board. It also has two pens (with pressure recognition) and the system knows when a pen, an eraser or a fingerprint are being used on the screen (we heard from others that this feature is required if you want a collaboration system to be fully supported by Windows 10). When a pen is taken from the side of the display, the system detects this and automatically switches to the OneNote/whiteboard application. The pen is just touched to a user icon and then content created with the pen is tagged to that user. There is also an integrated NFC reader.

Miracast/Widi are approved for wireless connectivity, but there is no support for Apple’s AirPlay system. On the other hand, there is nothing to prevent sticking an Apple TV on the back, connected to an HDMI input.

The display has dual 1080p cameras, one on each side and the system can work out when someone is at the board and use facial recognition to work out which camera to use. It can also use beamforming in its four microphone audio input system.

Analyst Comment

This was one of the most impressive demos at Infocomm. Microsoft looks as though it has really worked hard to show that “less is more”. The system looks well thought through and should allow quite a compelling user experience, especially the 84″. The functionality comes at quite a high price, but installation costs should be quite reasonable and the system should fit well into corporate infrastructures.

I also had a look at an interesting application called Stormboard that was being demonstrated by the developer and which works on the Surface Hub and is used for brain storming and other creative processes. It seems very clever at producing structured output (e.g. a powerpoint presentation) automatically from a free-flowing and interactive session. (BR)