Surface Hub Is Shipping—and That’s Big News

Many in the industry wondered if Microsoft would ever release its collaboration solution. Now that it’s happened, some want to gloss over it as meaningless.

After the industry waited…and waited…and waited for Microsoft to make Surface Hub available to the masses—with some going as far as to say the product would never be released at all—the IT giant announced Friday it was starting to ship the large-scale collaboration platform to business customers.

Shortly after the news broke, the topic led AV Week and the prevailing wisdom was it’s really no big deal that the product is finally available. The more important story, panelists agreed, will be how customers and integrators respond to Surface Hub once it’s deployed and people start using it in non-demo settings.

While I certainly agree with the sentiment that the success of the Surface Hub can’t be determined by the hype surrounding the product, or the naysayers who never expected it to see the light of day and still wonder about its viability in the market, I disagree completely that its release isn’t news at all.

From the day InfoComm International announced Microsoft would have a booth at the organization’s June 2014 showcase event in Las Vegas, and probably well before that, Microsoft has been among the most-discussed companies in the integration world.

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

When Surface Hub was at the center of Microsoft’s InfoComm 2015 booth, just about every one of the almost 40,000 attendees wanted to touch it, or at the very least see it, and whether they did either one, they certainly all wanted to talk about it.

When Microsoft announced a handful of delays to Surface Hub’s release, each announcement brought not-so-silent chuckles from those who fully expected they’d seen the best days of Surface Hub, and those were glitch-filled days on a trade show floor.

There were several pronouncements that Microsoft would grow tired of the time and money it had invested in Surface Hub and send it to the scrap heap, like it had with other products that became too buggy to mass-produce or continue to offer its customers.

I’ll admit, when I got an email response from a Microsoft spokesman after asking if the Surface Hub was still on track for a first-quarter release last week and was told there was news on that front but it was embargoed, it smacked of a perfect news dump, given it was on Good Friday, when many companies in the industry were closed and the news could be buried to some degree.

But that was obviously not the case, and as a veteran journalist, I can tell you there’s nothing like the feeling of a breaking news story, especially when you have the feeling you’ll be the one to break it. And, based on how many times the story of Microsoft shipping Surface Hub has been read since we posted it, I’m not the only one who was interested in the story.

I have no idea if the masses will embrace the Surface Hub, and certainly the AV Week panel is right to say that’s now the story we should—and will—track. We’ll see demos of the product thanks to at least two of the launch partners and will obviously see how Surface Hub has developed since we last saw it at InfoComm 2015 at this year’s show.

A couple of the people I quoted in my article questioned the price and said that could keep Surface Hub from hitting it big, especially since they view it as similar to other solutions on the market. But let’s let the market take care of that and determine who’s right. Even one of the companies with a product that could directly compete with Surface Hub calls Microsoft’s interest in the channel “validation for us.”

Microsoft is obviously here to stay in the AV space and it’s time those who’ve been expecting them to go away to realize that’s not happening any time soon. Microsoft won’t necessarily succeed because it’s a multibillion corporation with a long track record of technological success, but that track record tells me company leaders know a little something about how to succeed.

Here’s the full discussion on AV Week about Surface Hub: