Surface Hub ‘Ready for Prime Time’ As Installations Begin

AVI-SPL, Red Thread among launch partners who’ve helped Microsoft craft all-in-one collaboration platform into something people want.

At a time when many companies see business slow down as employees enjoy family vacations, integrators who are charged with installing Microsoft Surface Hubs might find the summer months to be more hectic than ever.

Customers are expected to receive “large shipments” of the hotly debated all-in-one collaboration platform by July, says Tom Napolitano, technology product manager at Red Thread Spaces, one of a handful of Surface Hub launch partners. Red Thread’s headquarters will have three 84-inch Surface Hubs displayed throughout the posh waterfront property that doubles as a showroom.

So far, many of those who have participated in demos of the Surface Hub find it user-friendly, says Napolitano. At Red Thread, they live by the motto, “First use must inspire future use,” and he believes Surface Hub lives up to that in its current iteration, which he says is well beyond a first-run product.

“People aren’t intimidated by it,” he says. “They press that Windows button like they do on their devices. So it’s something that’s very familiar to them. Everyone’s making ROI decisions with their technology, so it’s got to be simple and consistent wherever they go. There are a lot of other systems that do what it does, but none of them do it all in one.”

“It’s very refined now. It’s been through a lot of testing and it’s ready for prime time,” says Napolitano.

At InfoComm 2016, AVI-SPL VP of UCC solutions Linda Civitillo said Surface Hub “helps us to bring together what we’ve been talking about forever. This is about bridging the gap between the AV and IT environments. It’s a much bigger story than just a Surface Hub on the wall.”

“The lead time for this is longer than we usually deal with, but we’re seeing allocations weekly and we’ve had some very successful installations. The demand is still there and everyone is still really excited but we’re faced with a six-month lead time, so sometimes [the customer’s] schedule moves faster than we can deliver,” says Civitillo.

Although many integrators and competitors were critical of Microsoft’s myriad delays before finally announcing Surface Hub was shipping a few months ago, Napolitano wasn’t entirely surprised.

“Microsoft took on a lot,” he says. “This is a very exciting time, though, and I really think this is something that’s going to transform meeting spaces for business.” That’s something that’s especially important to Red Thread as it continues to sell “the workplace of the future” to its customers.

“We’re seeing the work space change,” says Civitillo. “We’re doing a lot of thinking about how we work and leveraging spaces. We’re working really diligently to help our customers. This is a bridge to help everything work together.”

Napolitano also says concerns about the cost of the Surface Hub are somewhat unfounded, noting, “if you take the four pieces and buy all of them separately, it’s going to cost a lot more when you add that together.”

Civitillo calls Surface Hub “a very competitive solution” in terms of price when factoring in the cost of a computer, camera, audio components and training. She says criticism that Surface Hub is harder to fix because of its all-in-one nature is unfounded.

“When you have a system made up of different components, if one piece goes down, the room isn’t really complete anyway,” says Civitillo. She agrees with Napolitano about Surface Hub being greatly improved from the original version of the product she saw and says the revisions such as added privacy features made it even better. AVI-SPL customers who buy a Surface Hub can utilize their virtual meeting room licenses, she says.

“They’ve incorporated a lot of things along the way to make it more user-friendly,” says Civitillo. “I think it’s ready.”

Here’s a look at a Microsoft Surface Hub demo at Red Thread’s Boston headquarters: