The original Surface Hub came in larger 55- and 84-inch sizes, but were mostly designed to be mounted in conference rooms and used in landscape mode.
The Surface Hub 2S is 60 percent thinner and 40 percent lighter and has more screen real estate due to smaller bezels. Pricing is $8,999.99 for the 50-inch Surface Hub 2S, which ships in the US in June and can be purchased through authorized resellers. Adding the Steelcase Roam Mobile Stand will cost an additional $1,449.99, and there's also a $249 wall mount available.
Microsoft also plans to sell an enterprise-focused Surface Hub 2 Display, which does not have the computer functionality, but serves the needs of offices that need a pen- and touch-enabled interactive display.
Microsoft is also trying to future-proof the Surface Hub 2S; there's the option of switching out its Central Processing Unit (CPU), which comes out like an old video game cartridge. Simply swap in an upgraded Surface Hub Compute cartridge and it will become faster and more powerful while gaining new functionalities, like rotating between landscape and portrait mode.
The optional 4K conferencing cameras use USB Type-C connectors and magnets that make them easy to remove and replace. Another option is a battery from APC by Schneider Electric. Capable of powering the Surface Hub 2S for two hours, the battery accessory tucks neatly underneath the Roam Mobile Stand. It was designed specifically for Surface Hub 2S and can be fully charged in 90 minutes, according to Mark W. Kaloudis, director of OEM and single phase secure power IT Business for APC.
Surface Hub 2S is visibly sleeker than its predecessor and is designed to be a more mobile and portable solution around the office. When mounted on the Steelcase Roam Mobile Stand, Surface Hub 2S can be easily rolled in and out of spaces. The mobile stand is sturdy, yet easy enough for one person to move. It also maintains the Surface Hub 2S at eye level, but the limitation is that you are stuck in this position and angle because there is no way to slide or tilt the Surface Hub 2S.
The One-Touch Meeting Start function, which quickly initiates a call or conference, remains the most intuitive feature of Surface Hub 2S. The tactile nature of this feature, as well as the high-quality screen deliver a great video-conferencing experience for users on both ends.
In a demo of the group-conferencing feature, I saw four participants, each in a vivid and lag-free 1080p video resolution. The demo area at the event was noisy, but we were still able to converse, although we had to be quite close to the device.
Seeing the faces of meeting participants on a detailed 4K display is a more intimate and engaging experience that transcends into the realm of telepresence. On the flipside, being on camera in such stunning detail might result in participants becoming more self-conscious.
The Surface Hub 2S's display is bright, clear, and almost paper-like. Drawing on the display with my finger or with the included stylus was natural and responsive.
There's an impressive "Magic Wand" feature, which allows you to import any image into the Surface Hub 2S and turn it into a line drawing. This feature is ideal for adding images into presentations or reports. As with the earlier Surface Hub, the digital whiteboard feature offers users an almost infinite canvas on which to draw, post notes, and annotate collaboratively. Tapping, pinching-to-zoom, and dragging objects around on screen works just as quickly as if you were using an iPad or Surface Pro tablet.
Since it runs a version of Windows 10, the Surface Hub 2S supports various Store Apps (i.e. applications you purchase through the Microsoft App Store). I was able to fire up the Edge browser and Microsoft Excel, and tile them next to each other on the screen. A software keyboard floats on the screen for when you need to enter text or numbers.
A modular 4K camera can be easily plugged to the top bezel or to the left or right corners of the Surface Hub 2S. Microsoft used a USB-Type C connector with magnets to make this a plug-and-play component. According to Robin Seiler, general manager of Microsoft Devices, the modular design makes it possible to add future cameras.
"Focus on modularity started with the cameras. We purposely didn't build them in because camera technology evolves so quickly. You don't want to replace the whole thing for the sake of the camera," Seiler said. She pointed out that the same premise pushed Microsoft to create an upgradeable modular Compute cartridge, "because CPUs are one component that see rapid change."
It is hard not to see Surface Hub 2S as a transitional product. It still runs the current generation Microsoft Windows Teams Operating System (OS) that's available for the original Surface Hub, but on more powerful and sleeker hardware.
Companies investing in Surface Hub 2S need to be aware they are buying into a promise of additional features and functionality once the new Compute cartridges ship. They should consider the future cost of those Compute cartridges and add that to the sizeable cost of Surface Hub 2S for a realistic idea of how much this will cost them overall.
The Compute cartridge will offer software, hardware, and functional upgrades. The Surface Hub 2S currently has a Tic-Tac-sized lock that disables the ability to rotate the device, mostly because the current-generation OS isn't designed to be rotated. This will change once users upgrade to the new Compute cartridge, which unlocks the rotating feature.
During the same event, Microsoft partner Steelcase launched a line of office furniture built around the idea of a fluid workplace. Now that Surface Hub 2S is no longer tethered to the boardroom (or a power outlet, thanks to the new battery accessory), it makes sense that the workplace can also be moved and configured in various ways.
The Steelcase Flex series of furniture includes smart standing desks that can easily be moved like grocery carts, but which remain locked in place when needed.
Large whiteboard panels can also be used to create cubicles on the fly. Steelcase also showed off modular office spaces that can morph from open concept co-working areas to private nooks by simply moving around and connecting various magnetic dividers.
The collection of Flex furniture had the same design and color treatments as Microsoft's Surface Pro devices. The use of special recycled fabrics, lightweight yet solidly constructed rolling dividers, and whiteboards could be configured to suit various needs.
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