It’s rarely a good idea to tell customers what they ought to want, but too many in the custom integration industry have an inclination to do just that. An obvious example stems from Microsoft and its entrance into the custom integration market.
It all started prior to InfoComm 2014 when it was announced that Microsoft would make its debut as a platinum exhibitor. If the IT giant intended to announce and demonstrate solutions to InfoComm’s integrator attendees, something went awry. Microsoft’s 10,000-square-foot booth essentially served as a nice, quiet place to sit and watch World Cup soccer.
The industry—CI included—didn’t hold back its comments. After all, it was funny.
At InfoComm 2015 we all got a better idea of what this $90 billion-plus company wants with our industry. It is leaning on the integration channel as it rolls out and distributes Microsoft Surface Hub, its entry into the quickly-growing collaboration market. Prior to InfoComm 2015, Microsoft announced the Surface Hub would be sold through integrators AVI-SPL, Red Thread and Global Presence Alliance members such as Whitlock and Sharp’s Audio Visual.
I have no idea if customers will actually want Microsoft’s Surface Hub over more well-established collaboration solutions with more robust features. I do know that it’s just as important for the integration industry to listen to its customers as it is to educate them.
This time attendees were able to experience the Surface Hub in Microsoft’s booth, and that’s when the opinions really started to fly and continued to do so through Integrated Systems Europe 2016 where it was also on display.
“I’m still confused what the purpose of it is,” Matt Scott, owner of integration firm Omega Audio Video told CI. “I don’t understand the difference between it and any other smart board. No one has been able to explain to me why we need to pay such an exorbitant price.”
Surface Hubs cost $8,999 for the 55-inch size and $21,999 for the 84-inch model.
“Maybe they’re not demoing the factors that set it apart,” Harry Meade, director of operations at integration firm Net-AV, told CI. “It has remained unimpressive to me. If you look at the component parts, there’s not a lot there.”
Many more in the integration community took to Twitter to joke about the Surface Hub—again, it’s funny.
@CraigMacCormack Wait till people start to use them….still might turn out to be….who knows…
— David Danto (@NJDavidD) March 26, 2016
— Josh Srago, CTS (@JSrago) March 26, 2016
Meade’s and Scott’s comments reflect their thoughts on Surface Hub’s pros and cons and analysis of potential downsides for integrators—namely the all-in-one nature of the Surface Hub with all elements built into the wall-mountable device. “It only takes one thing to fail to take out an entire room,” Meade said.
“I think about workarounds all the time since I end up dealing with that.”