The giant Surface Hub touch screen devices are expected to cost $6,999.
Microsoft’s bid to expand into the conference room will debut in September.
The Redmond company’s giant Surface Hub touch screen devices are expected to be available then in the U.S. and 23 other countries. They’ll come with a suggested retail price of $6,999 for the 55-inch model and $19,999 for the 84-inch version.
The Surface Hub was originally unveiled at a Windows 10 preview event in January. It’s a spiritual successor of sorts to the original Microsoft Surface tables (not to be confused with the more recent line of Surface tablets) released in 2007 . Those devices proved to be interesting multimedia showpieces but found little commercial use.
The new Surface Hub relies on technology Microsoft bought in a 2012 deal to acquire Perceptive Pixel, the maker of multi-touch displays known for helping CNN graphically narrate the results of the 2008 presidential election.
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Microsoft is pitching the Surface Hub as an all-in-one meeting center: part conference call hub, part audio-visual collaboration tool. The price tag sounds high for consumer technology, said Mike Angiulo, a vice president with the company’s devices group. But for businesses that already spend tens of thousands of dollars on audio visual equipment for a single conference room, it’s reasonably priced, he said.
Technology has revolutionized the way individual office workers do business in the last two decades, Angiulo said. Microsoft’s bet is that there’s room to do the same for meeting rooms, which still tend to come with white boards, telephone equipment and some sort of projector screen. “The conference room at this company and most companies have changed hardly at all,” he said.
The Surface Hub, which runs a modified version of Microsoft’s upcoming Windows 10 operating system, is designed to activate automatically when a person approaches. A click of one of the two included digital pens instantly brings up a whiteboard — a customized version of Microsoft’s OneNote note-taking application. People participating in meetings remotely can dial into a video conference call through Skype, which brings their faces onto the side of the screen and displays for them whatever content the Surface Hub is showing.
Other apps designed for the device allow annotation of videos — in a demonstration at Microsoft’s Redmond campus, officials suggested applications for lawyers in a courtroom or doctors pointing out the nuances of a surgical procedure for medical students. Microsoft officials say developers can tailor software specifically for the device, but applications written for Microsoft’s Windows 10 universal app platform will work on the Surface Hub.
The devices pack plenty of built-in hardware, including two high-definition cameras, infrared and ambient light sensors, microphones, and a wide array of audio, visual and internet connectivity ports. The Surface Hub also is part of Microsoft’s recent effort to play nicely with devices powered by competitors’ software. Any device with a video output jack can project to the screen.
Microsoft says the devices, manufactured at a facility in Wilsonville, Ore., the old home base of Perceptive Pixel’s engineering team, will be available to order beginning July 1. Shipment is expected in September.
They won’t appear at consumer-focused retailers like Best Buy anytime soon, though. Microsoft plans to distribute the Surface Hub through a slate of audio-visual equipment re-sellers and technology infrastructure and consulting firms.
As Angiulo put it, “We’re not vying for shelf space at the mall.”