By Corey Moss

Last week, in a blog titled It’s the most wonderful time of the year – for Surface! Brian Hall, CVP Microsoft Devices Marketing excitedly stated how there were many wonderful things happening across the board for Surface, and he wants to share a few of them with us.

Pointing to Surface Pro and Surface Book, along with the unveiling of the Surface Studio and Surface Dial in October, and November being the best month ever for consumer Surface sales, Hall announced that this is the Microsoft Surface team’s best holiday season yet. Hall also boldly stated in his blog that Microsoft has come off as the true innovator in the space and more people are switching from Macs to Surface than ever before.

While momentum has indeed shown in a huge way on the consumer side, Microsoft has hit pay dirt at the end of 2016 on the commercial side of the business as well. Software? Cloud? No – hardware. In 2015, Microsoft, becoming known as one of the cloud and software giants of the commercial tech business under first year CEO Satya Nadella, entered an entirely new technology realm – that being the large collaborative interactive display market.

First demonstrated at the major audio visual trade show ISE in early 2015 (and then InfoComm in June) to huge attendee response, the Surface Hub immediately gained mass notoriety. Prices for the product ranged from $6,999 (for the 55″ model) to $19,999 for what could only be described as a huge 84″ 4K wall computer. By the time Microsoft actually began shipping the product in early 2016 (after claiming that higher than expected demand – in particular of the 84-inch version- meant the company needed to change its manufacturing capabilities), the price had been hiked another $2,000 for both models, also signaling for the most part that the demand was that high.

In short, with sales flowing at a fairly steady pace throughout the year across the globe, Microsoft has now hit a hardware homer which has even surprised some at Microsoft, except for Brian Hall and his team that is.

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Hall goes on to specify that Microsoft has ramped up Surface Hub production, becoming more available for customers worldwide. Resellers worldwide have units, and to help meet the demand for Surface Hub, the company is adding more value-added partners who will resell Surface and provide 5-star service to their customers.

In fact, by the end of this year the Surface Hub could be a billion dollar business for Microsoft. I wanted to find out some particular information, and posed several questions to Microsoft involving sales, markets and competitive advantages.

Besides the U.S., which are Microsoft’s major global markets for Surface Hub sales and what are the overall sales to each market (including the U.S.)?

While we don’t break out specific sales data, we have seen strong demand across European and Asia Pacific markets. By the end of 2016, nine months since we began shipping to business customers, we will have sold-in Surface Hubs to over 2000 unique customers in 24 markets; a huge jump from just 600 customers in October.

Who have been Microsoft’s most successful partners in terms of volume sales of the Surface Hub in the U.S.? Globally?

While we don’t break out specific sales data, Microsoft has strong partnerships with a number of major companies that provide sales and support, including PC Connection, DataVision and Whitlock, among others. Our customers and partners are excited about the innovative new technology and the potential they see for how it will transform the way they work across a variety of industries.

Which particular business markets have been the largest in terms of Surface Hub sales? 

We have  seen success across a variety of industries including manufacturing, healthcare and higher education. The average deal size we see in the pipeline is approximately 50 units, but we’ve seen as large as 1,500 units to a large car manufacturer.

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What does Microsoft see specifically as the greatest advantage(s) of the Surface Hub vs. its competition in the audio visual interactive collaboration display market?  

Surface Hub stands out as a unique and comprehensive group collaboration device, with key capabilities such as: 

  • A fully integrated Windows 10 operating system that has been modified for team collaboration scenarios and ample storage to natively run Windows 10 applications. It also runs custom LOB apps developed by enterprise customers. Customers can access cloud-based applications via the Edge browser
  • Ships with Office apps including Word, PowerPoint, Power BI, Excel, and Skype for Business that have all been optimized for large screen pen and touch interactions
  • Best-in class inking and touch experience enabled by an optically bonded capacitive touch screen, high-tech Pens, and integrated software experiences. Near zero parallax and extremely low latency levels. Pens have unique radio identifier. Hub supports up to 100points of recognizable touch, supports three pen inputs at once in different ink colors with subpixel accuracy.
  • Can ink and touch simultaneously on the device across applications now with RS1 so people can (for instance) ink in different colors to track annotations across multiple users.
  • supports a myriad of options for connecting to your content 
  • Wireless: enables any Miracast-enabled device to wirelessly connect and project to Surface Hub, including inkback and touchback for Windows 10 devices. 
  • Wired connections and ports available for HDMI, VGA, USB 
  • Save and recall directly from OneDrive 
  • NFC

Also featured: two wide-angle HD cameras, a four-element microphone array, and an ‘always on’ ambient software state which allows the Surface Hub to detect when someone walks up to it (to save power, and decrease the amount of time it takes to start a meeting or brainstorm) and switches the camera view to ensure the optimal angle for capturing the experience for remote attendees.

Along with these features, the Surface Hub provides enterprise-grade security and manageability, including support for Microsoft Intune, Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM) and third-party Mobile Device Management (MDM) tools.

The Surface Hub includes support for 3rd-party peripherals like Biamp TesiraForte CI, Jabra 810, Logitech Group, Logitech PTZ Pro and Polycom CX5100.

Microsoft is introducing a Surface Hub Try-and-Buy Program where the company will enable a select set of their resellers to provide customers Hubs for 30 days before committing to purchasing a large set of devices. The program will launch in US and European Surface Hub markets this winter, and in Asia pacific at a later date.

There are of course the extras and add-ons, from a $2,350 rolling stand to a $3,499 fee for “site survey, unboxing and basic installation” for an 84-inch Surface Hub.

While there are certainly a number of options on the market for collaborative interactive display systems, it appears that Microsoft (along with their partners) has delivered on the promise of making the Surface Hub a very welcome collaborative solution addition for multiple markets.

For more information as well as facts and figures see CVP Microsoft Devices Marketing Brian Hall’s blog It’s the most wonderful time of the year – for Surface!

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