This one’s been a long time coming…
Over the last several years, the audio visual industry has seen numerous advancements in display technology to go long with communication and collaboration capabilities across the board. Touch interactive technology solutions have existed for quite some time now, and most will refer to the SMART Board as the most visible of such products. Many companies across the globe copied the interactive whiteboard technology SMART created, in fact I had seen a number of them at major trade shows who were so off, knowing the SMART Board and software as well as I had, I would essentially advise them to get out of the business.
SMART as the creator of interactive whiteboarding may have inadvertently created the interactive display technology market as well, which in time complemented the numerous whiteboard products which appeared. The interactive display market would play better in the business market though, as the interactive whiteboard never really took hold, except maybe in certain geographical areas. While SMART could never really establish a true business focus for the SMART Board, or their interactive display technologies, they eventually shifted major focus in 2014 to a product that remained a standard in the corporate meeting room – the dry-erase board. SMART created kapp, and has continued to mass-market that solution, along with kapp IQ to business and education.
Back in 2012, long-time DLP and LCD projector market competitor InFocus introduced what essentially became one of the standards for all-in-one large format interactive collaboration displays – the Mondopad. Online tech publication Digital Trends, in a “hands on” article described it like this:
If a PC can do it, the Mondopad can do it. But in addition to basic PC functionality, the Mondopad supports easy presentations, document annotations and video conferencing thanks to a sensitive touch-screen, built-in whiteboard, web camera and customized user interface (shell).
The system included a 720p webcam and microphone array for video conferencing, a wireless mouse and keyboard and a stylus. The interactive Sharp Aquos Board was competition at the time, along with the SMART Board system which those in the industry will continue to stack up against any interactive collaborative display solution, as erroneous as the comparison might be. Clary Icon, another large screen all-in-one collaboration solution manufacturer introduced OneScreen in 2014, and though they were considered a player, they haven’t seemed to be able to grab market-share like InFocus, Sharp and SMART have.
While these manufacturers continued to develop solutions, the industry awaited the next great large format interactive collaboration display. In late January 2015, Microsoft announced the 84-inch 4K UHD Surface Hub tailored for Windows 10 (also available in 55″ HD) with Skype for Business and OneNote whiteboarding, and at Integrated Systems Europe (ISE) in February 2015, the long-awaited rival product was finally brought in front of the industry. This all-in-one 84″ Skype for Business-driven Windows 10 wall mounted collaboration computer hit the industry by storm where Microsoft, after their big InfoComm no-show miss in 2014, grabbed the show attendees’ attention to see just a single product (or should I say loads of them). They partnered with major industry manufacturers, integrators and resellers across the world with the promise of an all-in-one interactive UHD collaboration system that would own the market. They brought the Surface Hub to InfoComm in June, again to a mass audience of attendees and word of delivery to partners in Q3 was announced.
While it appeared that Microsoft could be on a strong path to displacing AV industry competitors, the events which followed proved otherwise.
What took place after that grand second AV industry entrance led to the kind of “ill-wind blowing” feeling that can overtake an industry. The promise of Q3 delivery led to further delays and miscommunication, all the way through Q1 of 2016. The AV industry and general public clamored as Microsoft continued to attempt to fulfill the massive amount of orders taken by integrators and resellers (to which they admitted they weren’t ready for the onslaught) and what’s worse, during this delay Microsoft decided to increase pricing, while also pushing delivery from Jan. 1 to to sometime in the first quarter. This slow-moving disaster was something that many in the industry, along with myself, will admit they had never witnessed before. Microsoft did finally begin shipping those 2015 orders in March, though I have been told by reliable sources that some end users are still facing long delivery lead time issues on 2016 orders. I also have a hunch about the Surface Hub going forward, we’ll see if it’s correct in the coming months.
Microsoft decided not to attend ISE or InfoComm in 2016 and thus leave it to integrators and certain manufacturers to represent them with the 84″ Surface Hub. In August, after a strong showing at InfoComm with Mondopad (and JTouch), InFocus announced the launch of the Mondopad Ultra, a Windows 10 Pro, Intel Core i7-based PC interactive 4K UHD display system, available in 80″, and 85″sizes with everything needed to present, annotate, collaborate and videoconference (Skype for Business and other commercial cloud applications can be added). It also includes digital whiteboarding, tablet and smartphone view and control, full Office 365 and 256GB storage (the Surface Hub has 128GB, both have 8GB memory). Wainhouse Research, in their September 16th Research Blog Brief,* when detailing the launch of the new 70″Mondopad Ultra stated Watch out, Surface Hub!
Will the Mondopad Ultra become the Surface Hub slayer? One major point I’ll consider here is that InFocus has proved to be a continued strong provider of a vast array of collaboration solutions (including Jupiter Canvas) in the industry, while Microsoft has to this day still only provided one. Though with what was revealed at MS Ignite recently, it appears that Microsoft does have larger aspirations in the space with certain partnered manufacturers.
And we’ll also see about that hunch of mine in the coming months.
(Note: I have seen demos of both the Surface Hub and Mondopad Ultra).
*Wainhouse Research September 16th Research Blog Brief.