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Microsoft Names Surface Hub Ship Date, Partners Remain Optimistic

Integrators working with Microsoft to incorporate product into AV installs continue with demos, training until scheduled Jan. 1 release.

We’ll find out early in 2016 how well Microsoft does at keeping its New Year’s resolutions, after the software giant announced the much-ballyhooed Surface Hub is now scheduled for release that day, four months later than originally planned and six months after it started taking orders for the product.

The announcement was met largely with shrugs by Microsoft’s launch partners on the Surface Hub, who agreed they expected Jan. 1 to be around the time of the product launch after hearing there would be a delay last month.

“Customer interest is high, orders are building and we are excited with the news of full production in the New Year,” says Julian Phillips, executive VP at Whitlock, one of Microsoft’s launch partners on the Surface Hub.

Although Microsoft had cited “unanticipated demand” as the reason for Surface Hub’s delay last month, one launch partner said Microsoft needed to find a way to curb the failure rates it was getting in the initial run and better support issues that arise with Surface Hub.

Red Thread audiovisual group VP John Mitton has been telling customers the Surface Hub would be released Jan. 1 as a “worst-case scenario” in demos of the product at the Microsoft Technology Center in Boston, and that hasn’t slowed down the enthusiasm for the release.

“I think [Microsoft was] a little optimistic on what they thought they could deliver,” says Mitton. “They understand they have to be solid out of the chute. Our clients are not deterred by a slight delay. They’re still very excited about it.”

No one who originally placed an order for a Surface Hub with Red Thread has canceled it, says Mitton, although many are anxious to see a proof of concept on the product. With that said, many of those who were among the first to place orders or see demos are using Skype for Business and other Microsoft products, so they know the quality of the products Microsoft makes.

“It’s built into their infrastructure,” he says.

Although AVI-SPL had originally hoped and planned to have Surface Hub help it boost its bottom line at some point in 2015, the product’s delay isn’t a major issue for the company.

“This did not catch us by surprise,” says Dale Bottcher, senior VP of sales for AVI-SPL. “We assumed a Q4 release when we heard there would be a delay. It doesn’t change our excitement and commitment to the initiative or to Microsoft.”

The only drawback, says Bottcher, is not being able to fill the “pent-up amount of pre-orders” for the Surface Hub, which will be sold for about $7,000 in the 55-inch size and $20,000 in the 84-inch version.

“We’re working through our demo requests and we’d love to be able to fill those orders right now,” he says.

The delay has allowed AVI-SPL to put 180 sales staffers through Microsoft’s sales certification program, says Bottcher. They’re doing the same with the design team, he says, and they now have a dedicated channel representative to serve as a conduit between the companies.

AVI-SPL continues taking pre-orders on Surface Hub, but can’t schedule projects that include the product until they know when Microsoft will start rolling them off the production line in large enough quantities to meet the demand.

“We’re working to have our pre-orders filled early in the process,” he says. “Our excitement is still there. We’re using the time to solidify the practice.”

Bottcher says he’s relieved Microsoft has also delayed plans to add another round of launch partners with the delay of Surface Hub’s release. He’s happy AVI-SPL will still have extra time to demo and sell the product to customers before it’s made available to other integrators. AVI-SPL was the only integrator who was allowed to showcase its relationship with Microsoft in Microsoft’s InfoComm 2015 booth.

“We pushed very hard and put a lot of energy behind being a launch partner,” says Bottcher. “We don’t want that advantage to go away.”

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