Nearly three years after the launch of the original Surface Hub interactive whiteboard, Microsoft introduced the second-generation model on Tuesday, May 15. It won’t be made widely available to businesses until 2019, but Microsoft plans to test the Surface Hub 2 waters this year with “select” commercial customers. Pricing will be “competitive” with other devices on the market, Microsoft says.
The unit Microsoft introduced on Tuesday sports a 50.5-inch multitouch screen with a 3840 x 2160 resolution. By comparison, the original 55-inch unit has a 1920 x 1080 resolution for $8,999, while the pricier 84-inch sports a 3840 x 2160 resolution for $21,999. That said, Microsoft appears to be shooting for the best of both worlds with a “sleeker, more agile, and more affordable” device for collaboration.
Microsoft doesn’t mention a larger unit like the current 84-inch model, and there’s good reason why the company may not take this larger avenue: Tiling. With the introduction of the Surface Hub 2 comes the ability to align up to four Hubs together to create one enormous touch-supporting screen. Microsoft’s example shows four digital whiteboards vertically mounted side-by-side, showing one presentation although you can mount them horizontally too.
“Seeing four of the beautiful Surface Hub 2s lined up together has undeniable visual effect and will have a profound impact on what groups can accomplish together, allowing users to display multiple pieces of content side-by-side,” says chief product officer Panos Panay. “Imagine how much your team could get done being able to work simultaneously across Microsoft Whiteboard, PowerBI, PowerPoint, and a full view video call.”
Unfortunately, Panay doesn’t get into the hardware specifics. Instead, he says the Surface Hub 2 is easier to move around in your workplace thanks to a collaboration with Steelcase. The company created rolling stands and easy-to-use mounts for better collaboration between team members throughout the building.
The current models rely on fourth-generation Intel Core i5 (55-inch) and Core i7 (84-inch) processors. For graphics, the 55-inch model uses the CPU’s integrated HD Graphics 4600 component while the 84-inch model sports a discrete Nvidia Quadro K2200 graphics chip. Both have 8GB of system memory and 128GB of storage on an SSD.
Powering the Surface Hub is Windows 10 Team, a customized version of Windows 10 Enterprise. It’s designed from the ground up to support the large screen and 100-point touch input. It doesn’t have a lock screen, but rather a welcome screen listing specific apps and scheduled meetings generated by the device’s calendar. Anyone can use the hub without the need to log into the operating system itself.
With the Surface Hub 2, the upcoming device will support multi-user sign-ins. With this feature, teammates can log onto the device simultaneously and share their documents and ideas to create one big collaborative project. Previously, only one individual could sign on at a time to retrieve their files and schedules from the cloud. Presumably the Surface Hub 2 still doesn’t provide means to actually log into the operating system itself.
“This feature is a truly magical experience,” Panay says, “making collaboration as natural as meeting at a whiteboard.”