Microsoft Gets It Right at InfoComm 2015

Software giant shows it’s here to stay with Surface Hub, announcement of partnerships with key integrators and manufacturers.>

Microsoft is one of those companies that will draw criticism no matter what it does and how successfully it does it. In a lot of ways, it’s a lot like Apple, with its loyalists/fanboys and those who would rather become Amish than put their fingers on a Microsoft product.

With that backdrop, it’s not surprising to see outspoken folks including our own Daniel Newman and David Danto say they weren’t impressed with what they saw in Microsoft’s sophomore InfoComm appearance, no matter how polar opposite it was from the software giant’s debut the previous year.

As I had in 2014, I made sure Microsoft was my first InfoComm appointment this year. I knew from our pre-show coverage that Microsoft’s booth would look a lot different than it had last year, but I kept my expectations low—unnecessarily, as it turns out.

I talked about what a difference a year makes for Microsoft on the 200th episode of AV Week, recorded live on the InfoComm 2015 show floor on the last day of the show. As I said on the podcast, the most important piece of Microsoft’s growth in and expansion into the integration business is the buy-in from such well-respected integrators as AVI-SPL and manufacturers including Crestron and AMX.

The Surface Hub isn’t—and never will be—for everyone. But Microsoft is here to stay in the industry for as long as it’s got the backing of such major players in this world. The Surface Hub’s price, ranging from $6,999 for the 55-inch size to $19,999 for the 84-inch model, will scare some off and keep others from even considering it, but I expect them to fly off the shelves, based on the steady flow of traffic in the Microsoft booth during the three days of InfoComm 2015.

More InfoComm 2015 Coverage.

Some will, and already have, noted that Microsoft’s Surface Hub staffers ran into some technological glitches during their booth presentations (and I saw a hiccup or two in my booth visit, to be frank), but I don’t think that means the Surface Hub and Microsoft doesn’t have a place in this industry. It’s fairly common to see products run into issues at a technology show with more than 39,000 people, where everyone is competing for bandwidth.

I know a lot of people still bristle at the idea of an IT company invading the AV space, but that doesn’t mean AV and IT have truly become intermingled at this point and both sides need each other. It makes complete sense for Microsoft to exhibit at InfoComm and they won’t be the last IT company to generate buzz on the trade show floor going forward.

One thing I’ve always loved about this job is how, every day, there’s a project or product or idea that truly makes me say, to borrow a word that was pretty prominent in Orlando last week, “WOW!” I’m fully expecting Microsoft and Surface Hub will make such a mark in this space before long. Let’s see what they can do before dismissing a company whose bottom line includes billions (with a B) in revenue. They don’t often make mistakes when they set their mind on rolling out new products or trying new things.