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Microsoft Starts Surface Hub Shipments

After several delays and questions if it would ever come, IT giant launches much-discussed product.

Microsoft has officially started shipping the Surface Hub to its business customers, almost two years after the IT giant made its debut in the AV space with a mostly-empty booth at InfoComm 2014 and nine months after showing the product to thousands of curious onlookers at InfoComm 2015.

Linda Civitillo, VP of unified communications and collaboration solutions for Surface Hub launch partner AVI-SPL, says company officials have worked closely with Microsoft on developing this collaboration solution and have seen it go through its various development stages.

“We’ve been excited about this solution from the get-go,” says Civitillo. “We always try to bring our customers the solutions we believe they will adopt and use and help them be more productive. They put a lot of thought into it and we were able to see the progress they were making.”

Civitillo sees the Surface Hub as a key element in the evolving look at the workforce.

“Offices are becoming more collaborative and the workforce is more mobile than ever,” she says. “We see a great opportunity there.”

AVI-SPL has gotten “a significant number” of pre-orders for Surface Hubs, says Civitillo, including some who want to try it out and have ordered one or two units and others who have ordered “significant quantities” of the products. AVI-SPL will provide a full suite of services to those customers placing the large orders, including training, says Civitillo, but the companies testing the product before making larger orders will get “a little less hand-holding.”

Interest in Surface Hub in the corporate market is “huge,” says Civitillo, but higher education clients are also extremely interested in adding it to their classrooms.

Civitillo says the delays in Surface Hub shipments hasn’t slowed down the interest from customers or the enthusiasm on AVI-SPL’s part in the product. Pre-orders have been steady since last summer, she says, although she expects an uptick in interest now that it’s shipping.

At InfoComm 2016, AVI-SPL will be among a handful of booths with Surface Hubs, although Microsoft itself won’t have a booth. AVI-SPL will have both a 55-inch Surface Hub in a conference room or meeting setting and an 84-inch product in a more open area. AVI-SPL will demo some partner apps on its Surface Hubs, including a new version of its Symphony app that will allow AVI-SPL to manage Surface Hub customer platforms.

CI‘s Tom LeBlanc and Craig MacCormack discuss the industry’s reaction to the shipping of Microsoft’s Surface Hub.

John Mitton, VP of AV and CTO for fellow launch partner Red Thread, is excited to see Surface Hub finally available to customers who’ve awaited its arrival. Red Thread will have Surface Hubs at its new state-of-the-art WorkLife Center in Boston for demos.

“We’re thrilled to be able to demonstrate the incredible features of the Surface Hub to our clients,” says Mitton. “More importantly, they are excited. Now, they can begin to take advantage of this ground-breaking technology to help seamlessly and intuitively connect their teams both globally and locally.”

Brady Bruce, chief marketing officer at InFocus, says the company is excited about the release of Surface Hub, even though it’s a direct competitor to Mondopad.

“It’s validation for us,” says Bruce. “Both Jupiter and InFocus, now one company, have been toiling in the touch-enabled collaboration phase for some time and have been successful at it. Microsoft typically waits to see development before they come in. Their arrival signals to us, ‘Hey, there is a market here. People do want this.’ We see their entrance as a good thing. There is a big market here and there is a lot of room for many different players with different solutions to find growth here.”

Others aren’t quite as enthusiastic about Surface Hub’s long-anticipated arrival.

Harry Meade, director of operations at Net-AV and Matt Scott, owner of Omega Audio Video, did a Surface Hub demo in AVI-SPL’s booth during ISE 2016 for AV Nation. Meade was largely unimpressed with what he saw.

“Maybe they’re not demoing the factors that set it apart,” he says. “It has remained unimpressive to me. If you look at the component parts, there’s not a lot there.”

Meade’s biggest concern about Surface Hub is its all-in-one nature.

“It only takes one thing to fail to take out an entire room,” he says. “I think about workarounds all the time since I end up dealing with that.” While the installation and setup of Surface Hub are positives in Meade’s eyes, the service and support issues could become problematic, he says.

“End users care that their room is up and running. They don’t care if it all comes in one shiny box,” says Meade. That doesn’t mean Net-AV won’t be selling the Surface Hub, though.

“If somebody wants it, we’ll sell it to them,” he says. “But we can put together the components we know work together and market that just as easily.”

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