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Microsoft's Surface Hub 2 lab: Future collaboration PC

Microsoft has been obsessed with giant touch screen displays for many years. Occasionally, the company produces a vision video of the future where everyone in the office collaborates on a huge huge display on the wall. It actually seems far away, but its future now begins with Surface Hub 2.

At its most basic level, it is a huge room display with 50-inch and 85-inch versions, but Microsoft expects that much more. It is actually designed for future meeting rooms where you need to collaborate using the screen rather than sitting and seeing the presentation. It certainly does not look like the typical boring meeting room TV you can see in the conference room.

"When compared to the rest of the surface line, the originality of the hub is not a personal computer," said Ralf Groene, senior manager of hardware design at Microsoft. brow. "It really is a computer in space."

We visited Microsoft's campus earlier this month to look closely at Surface Hub 2 and all of its additional options, and the special modular processor cartridges that Microsoft created to upgrade future hardware. The Surface Hub 2S (eg, 2S is the official model number) will be available for $ 8,999.99 in June and almost $ 12,000 for all optional items.

The future is not cheap.

Surface Hub 2 is a beautifully designed hardware. Compared to the original Surface Hub, it now looks and feels like a Surface hardware, much more noticeable than competitive products like Google's Jamboard.

Microsoft has adopted a typical 3: 2 Surface aspect ratio 50-inch display (3840 x 2560 pixels) compared to the 55-inch 16: 9 panel originally used in Surface Hub. The new aspect ratio means that you can rotate the display for portrait mode, which is ultimately ideal for conference calls and provides more vertical space for drawing, presenting, or viewing documents.

Compared to the original, the bezel has been thinned to 15.5mm and Microsoft has done some work to improve screen bonding for stylus input and to improve the glare seen in typical conference room displays.

I was most surprised at how thin it is, about 60% thinner than the original surface hub. You can install it on the wall or use the stand to move to a conference room or open office space. Microsoft has designed stand and wall mounts with Steelcase, and is offered at $ 1,449.99 for the stand and $ 249 for the wall mount, respectively.

There is also a battery that you can put in a stand case that provides about two hours of battery life on the go. You can pull the surface completely like a laptop and then move it to the conference room or elsewhere. Like the stand, the battery extension is sold separately for $ 1,400.

Microsoft also produced a 4K camera dedicated to Surface Hub 2. This camera is powered by USB-C and can be mounted next to the display with magnets removed from the top. Because Surface Hub 2 is a wheeled design, Microsoft has created a special snapback mechanism for the camera. Therefore, when the door crashes, the camera will not tilt.

Because it's not really a big screen, it's a full-fledged PC, so Microsoft has all of the hardware. Intel's 8th generation Core i5 processor, 8GB RAM, 128GB M.2 SSD and Intel's UHD Graphics 620 integrated GPU. There are many PC ports, such as one standard USB-A port, USB-C port, Gigabit Ethernet, HDMI video input, and Mini DisplayPort. By connecting this device to the monitor, you can use the device as a monitor. Microsoft plans to sell the monitor separately without all the internal PC hardware, but the company will not announce the price of that model. yet.

The most exciting aspect of all these PC hardware is the way Microsoft is planning to allow Surface Hub 2 users to upgrade their devices over time. Next year, Surface Hub 2X processor cartridges will be available and will include upgraded GPUs to enable companies to tile up to four displays together. This upgrade cartridge stores the processor, RAM, and GPU inside. By default, the entire computer is stored as a storage device and can be mounted on the back of Surface Hub 2.

With this processor cartridge, Microsoft may apply more interesting software changes for this device, including the ability to rotate the display. We've seen Microsoft demonstrate this display rotation and look much smoother than it currently does on Windows 10. Microsoft has not yet announced the price or exact availability of upgrade cartridges, so you can see how it will compare later with the price of Hub 2.

The interesting software portion of Surface Hub 2 will not arrive until next year, so I have not tried it yet. Surface Hub 2 will be released in June with the same revision as Windows 10 (Team) currently available on the original Surface Hub computer. Microsoft says it is because businesses want to buy new hardware and plan budgets, but it's likely because the software is not ready yet.

Nevertheless, there are all common applications that can be found in Surface Hub, but this is limited to the Microsoft Universal Windows Platform application (UWP). Anyone can join a whiteboard session with an impressive Whiteboard application that can automatically organize cursive work on Windows 10, iOS, Android and the web. The Microsoft team is also here for conferencing and common office applications such as Word, PowerPoint, and Excel. Like a Windows 10 PC, you can log in and access the OneDrive document you just worked on, and hold meetings via Skype for Business or Microsoft Teams.

With Office 365, you will feel like you are a natural companion, just like many people. Surface Hub 2 feels like a fast PC, but is optimized for touch and stylus input on larger displays. If you can turn around the office, you can probably have a more fun meeting than you are familiar with. But the really impressive part of Surface Hub 2 will appear later on.

There is a smart way to make Surface Hub 2 available to multiple people, side by side with up to four tiles of the screen rotation and 50 inch version. Microsoft has shown how two people can log in to Surface Hub 2. You can use a fingerprint reader at the same time and access all of your individual OneDrive documents to collaborate or share in meetings. The hardware makes it easier to collaborate, but with software changes, you can turn it into a device for future meetings.

"I think it's a lot more exciting than industrial design," Groene says, "and the technology is amazing, but it's true, but now we're waiting and seeing the game. I do not know how it differs from the meeting room.

The hardware is undoubtedly impressive. Microsoft has made Surface Hub 2 much more portable and mobile with hardware choices. That will naturally improve meeting and collaboration in the office.

It's the software that will define the true potential of this device, and many of them are just a promise right now. Microsoft is currently working on software updates for its hubs for several months and is part of the Windows Core OS (WCOS) effort to modularize Microsoft's internal operating system to work in smart mode on smart hardware.

Microsoft has been building WCOS and Composable Shells (C-Shells) for years, both of which allow Windows to run on new hardware such as Surface Hub 2. Flexible folding display with Windows floating in a so-called "pocket" surface device or smart phone space with various screen sizes and hardware dual displays.

Currently, the modified version of Windows 10 for Hub 2 will not run legacy (Win32) desktop applications, but Microsoft plans to allow these traditional desktop applications to run on Surface Hub 2X.

Until the 2X cartridge arrives in 2020, modular design and software enhancements will give you a glimpse into the hardware that will improve over time. It's not uncommon these days, but Microsoft expects the company to pay a steep price of $ 8,999.99 if it wants a promise of the future.

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