Microsoft is unveiling the next-generation of its giant conference room displays today: Surface Hub 2. While the original Surface Hub shipped in 2016 with 1080p 55-inch and 4K 84-inch options, the Surface Hub 2 will use a 50.5-inch display with a greater than 4K resolution and 3:2 aspect ratio with extremely thin bezels. That’s the same ratio as all other Surface products, and Microsoft has clearly picked this to compliment the fact its giant display now rotates to a portrait position.
The new portrait orientation allows the Surface Hub 2 to rotate into place with a clever mechanism that looks similar to Microsoft’s Surface Book muscle wire lock. Microsoft isn’t providing many specifications for the new Surface Hub 2, or even a release date or exact pricing, but the new device will be available in 2019. Today’s preview is more about informing businesses that typically order devices far in advance that this device is on the way.
The Surface Hub 2 looks stunning
The hardware of the Surface Hub 2 looks stunning, but Microsoft is also improving the software running on the new device. While it’s still based on Windows 10, Microsoft is working on a new dynamic collaboration scenario that will allow multiple people to walk up to the Surface Hub 2, log into the device using the built-in fingerprint reader and then each pull their own work into a single collaborative document. Most of the software will be optimized for Microsoft Teams, and far-field microphones and 4K cameras will allow you to make video calls in portrait mode that make it feel like you’re standing next to a colleague.
The Surface Hub 2 is designed to be flexible and lightweight so workers can move it throughout an office, although Microsoft isn’t detailing the exact dimensions or weight today. Microsoft is also working with Steelcase to produce stands and wall mounts for the Surface Hub 2, and you’ll even be able to mount four of them together on a wall and have them linked as multiple monitors. Microsoft is calling this “tiling,” and it allows users to display different content side-by-side. In Microsoft’s promotional video (above) you can see this mode in action towards the end, and the 4K webcam is removable (it connects via USB-C) so multiple Surface Hub 2 devices can stack against each other in portrait or landscape.
Microsoft’s vision of the future is becoming a reality
Microsoft’s promotional video for the Surface Hub 2 really feels like the company’s vision of the future is becoming a reality. Microsoft has been obsessed with giant touchscreens for years now, but this new Surface Hub 2 brings together many of the dream scenarios we’ve seen for these type of displays. It’s clear that Microsoft is far ahead of its competition in this market too. Google launched its own $5,000 digital whiteboard last year, pricing it $4,000 below Microsoft’s 55-inch Surface Hub. Google’s Jamboard isn’t as slick or well integrated with typical Office apps as Microsoft’s Surface Hub, and this latest hardware and software pushes Microsoft even further ahead.
Microsoft says pricing will be in line with similar competitive devices, which could mean we’ll see a more aggressive price point to counter Google’s own digital whiteboard. Microsoft has already sold Surface Hubs to more than 5,000 businesses in 25 countries. More than half of Fortune 100 companies already own a Surface Hub, and it’s the most popular Surface device for enterprise customers. By simplifying to a single display size (50.5-inch) with the Surface Hub 2, the hardware should be easier to manufacture. Microsoft has struggled to manufacture Surface Hub devices to meet demand, and the company closed its US manufacturing plant last year, presumably to cut costs and speed up production elsewhere.
Microsoft will be keen to avoid some of the delays we saw with the original Surface Hub, and the company is launching an early adopter program later this year. Select commercial customers will be able to test the Surface Hub 2 before it’s more broadly available next year.