Whitlock Bundles Microsoft Surface Hub in Collaboration-as-a-Service

New initiative also includes Polycom-based bundle and will soon feature Cisco and Google all-in-one collaboration-based devices.

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Whitlock Bundles Microsoft Surface Hub in Collaboration-as-a-Service

Employees of Quorum and Whitlock use the Microsoft Surface Hub for video conferencing and presentations in at Quorum's offices in Houston. (Photo by Nathan Lindstrom)

Everyone knows about Software as a Service. We’ve heard recently more about AV as a Service and everything that entails. But what do you know about Collaboration as a Service?

Whitlock recently introduced the concept with a program that brings bundled solutions to customers that help them quickly upgrade their technology without worrying about making a capital expenditure.

But, while Whitlock is proud of its status as a Surface Hub launch partner, the Collaboration as a Service initiative is largely technology-agnostic, says Kirk Muffley, director of collaboration and global enterprise at Whitlock.

Another bundle includes a Polycom videoconferencing system as its centerpiece and Whitlock will develop bundles including the Cisco Spark Board and Google Jamboard in the future, says Muffley.

“CaaS is offered to customers who want their teams to be creative, collaborative and productive while not worrying about the procurement and management of hardware, software, training, maintenance and support,” according to Whitlock’s announcement of the offering March 31. “Whitlock can provide the entire solution for a single monthly fee, equivalent to the cost of coffee for each participant per meeting.”

While the initiative is less than a week old, Muffley says Whitlock recently responded to a global request for proposals that includes collaboration as a service as one element of the project.

“It seems to resonate with people and we see ourselves as trend-setters in this area,” he says. “Our industry is rewarded with innovation and our customers are always looking for creative ways to incorporate technology.”

At launch, Whitlock is offering an 84-inch Surface Hub preloaded with Office 365 and application developer Mural’s subscription-based visual workspace solution. The package includes the software, installation, lifetime user and three years of training and support. Whitlock is also offering a similar package with Polycom and Crestron, which includes a medium-sized video collaboration room with Real Presence and O365 integration.

“This enables a new way for customers to accelerate the adoption of the latest technologies and enjoy an instant return on investment and an improved enterprise-wide adoption rate,” says Whitlock executive vice president Julian Phillips.

Whitlock is offering a 30-day free trial for Mural’s software platform and a try-before-you-buy program for the Microsoft Surface Hub, along with live demonstrations and a free cup of coffee at VIBE Roadshow events in Dallas and Durham, N.C.

Microsoft Surface Hub Gaining Traction

Whitlock recently announced the company sold about 800 Surface Hub collaboration systems around the world in 2016, making them the worldwide leader in that department. Muffley says Whitlock has installed about half of those devices in a variety of markets, including K-12 education, higher ed, health care, manufacturing and corporate.

Some Surface Hubs are being used in place of videoconferencing endpoints, says Muffley, while others are being used to serve only as electronic whiteboard. Others, of course, are being used for a variety of purposes, he says.

“We’ve made a strong commitment to the Microsoft platform over the past few years, and Surface Hub has been a great success story with our customers,” says John Bailey, Whitlock VP of technology, in a recent Whitlock press release. “Customers are demanding not only one-touch collaboration, but one platform to bring their teaming and communication experiences to an entire new level.”

The promise of unified communications has always been the goal and the Surface Hub is the first one that really hit the mark on that. -Kirk Muffley, Whitlock

“Our strength in understanding video collaboration environments and new workspace trends enabled us to drive more customer conversations around Surface Hub—and Surface Studio as well,” says John “Jack” Steinhauer, Whitlock’s EVP of global sales, in the release. “We are big fans of one platform and enterprise standards; the Microsoft Surface story resonates for us and our enterprise customers.”

Whitlock is a Microsoft Gold Communications Partner, meaning it “demonstrates the highest level of expertise in implementing Microsoft UC solutions, including Microsoft Surface Devices, Skype for Business and Office 365,” according to the announcement.

Among the most prominent Surface Hub success stories, says Muffley, is Whitlock’s work with Quorum, where the integrator was engaged to develop a strategy related to technology planning and design. Today, Quorum uses interactive environments, with the Surface Hub at the center, for internal and external collaboration to improve operations for energy.

Whitlock also provides training and managed services to Quorum, including preventative maintenance and call center support from its AV Network Operations Center.

“The best gauge of what people think about the Surface Hub is when they come in and interact with the device,” says Muffley, noting Whitlock has about 10 Surface Hubs at its offices throughout the U.S., including some mobile units. Whitlock also helps customers set up meetings at Microsoft Technology Centers to try the Surface Hub before buying it.

“There’s been a significant level of interest and a high level of activity,” says Muffley. “The promise of unified communications has always been the goal and the Surface Hub is the first one that really hit the mark on that. The fact you’re seeing other companies release their own all-in-one devices really validates Microsoft as early adopters of this new way of doing business—all-in-one devices focused on collaboration.”

Whitlock customers want “standards, simplicity and scale” in their technology, says Muffley.

“We’ve positioned our solutions to provide the platforms and the process,” he says.

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