back to article Surface Hub: A Howard Hughes folly, or a cunning Post It Note killer?

Microsoft's Surface Hub is finally shipping, almost eight months after Microsoft began to take orders for the kit. To call Microsoft’s a electronic whiteboard Surface Hub a “boutique” product doesn’t really do the ambitious project justice. It’s hard not to think of the first fruit of the Perceptive Pixel acquisition as a …

  1. sad_loser

    Jumped the shark

    And done it in style. Big shark, big jump.

    This is going to make Zune look like investment of the century.

    Trebles all round.

    1. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

      Re: Jumped the shark

      So where do you rate the 'Kin'?

      1. Swarthy Silver badge

        Re: Jumped the shark

        So where do you rate the 'Kin'?

        Eaten by the shark.

        1. Roo

          Re: Jumped the shark

          "So where do you rate the 'Kin'?

          Eaten by the shark."

          In terms of physical size I think the Kin would rate as sardine or perhaps an anchovy, whereas the Surface Hub would count as a couple of surfboards +/- a CEO or two.

    2. Naselus

      Re: Jumped the shark

      Eh, not so much. I work for an architect, and I can see this causing some eyes to light up if I'm careless enough to let them find out about it - they're desperate for big touchscreen stuff. I know several other local big architecture firms have already decided they want half a dozen or more of these things, and I get the feeling that I'm going to be told to buy one fairly soon (instead of the new PCs that we desperately need for our users).

      1. DougS Silver badge

        Re: Jumped the shark

        I could readily see an architectural firm doing this - at least those in certain higher end markets. The people spending tens or hundreds of millions on a building project for a skyscraper or hospital wing want to feel like they are getting a quality firm that is up on the latest technology. If wasting money on some showy touchscreens that don't really contribute anything over an ordinary big screen TV sharing a laptop presentation makes the difference in a single commission, so be it. The resulting fee pays for the half dozen touchscreens several times over.

        It is no different than the image expensive hotels try to project with the high ceilings and marble floors in the lobby that say 'luxury', or the image older banks tried to project of safety and security.

      2. Phil_Evans

        Re: Jumped the shark

        Yes well said. Pragmatism is a rare event under the Christmas tree. Senior Management (especially marketing) eyes light up when they see this stuff and despite what it is, the Surface is real eye-candy in full flight (unlike the Howard Hughes incantation).

        More importantly, I've recently worked with customers buying Surface Pro 4 devices, and the Hub becomes a ''hook' with all the beaming and collaboration hob-knobs. If you are looking at funding an O365 project, having one of these in your capital spend is not a bad idea.

        OK, it's glitchy, a bit slow and rather expensive, but as a 'mobile' device running apps and providing logins, it's anathema comparing it to even a well featured HDTV.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Jumped the shark

      They're not going to sell a million of them, but they will sell. If people buy Telepresence, also known as video conferencing, for tens of thousands of dollars, they will think this is a great deal.

  2. David 132 Silver badge

    It's better than you might think.

    I was at a Microsoft event in Redmond last week and they were showing the 84" Surface Hub. Despite the detractors, it's actually a very impressive product, and the Windows 10 UI makes a little more sense on such a large, touch-only device. MS were running Lync/Skype calls to it from various other devices, and showing off its digital whiteboarding/collaboration features - manipulating a 3D CAD rendering of a radial aero engine, for example.

    I'll be the first to admit that I'm not a fan of Windows 10 in general (see my posts passim) but credit where it's due, the Surface Hub is a great piece of kit. Would I pay $21K of my own money for it? No, but I think there'll be plenty of corporate customers who see it as a good investment. And honestly, if MS only sell a few thousand of them, it'll serve as a halo product for everything else they do.

    1. David 132 Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: It's better than you might think.

      ...replying to my own post, with an afterthought...

      I've seen the Spruce Goose several times; it's currently on display in the Evergreen Air & Space Museum in McMinnville, Oregon. Go see it ASAP if you get the chance; the parent company of the museum has had some financial difficulties, and for a while the future of the museum hung in the balance.

      The Spruce Goose is BIG. Makes an 84" Surface Hub look like a postage stamp!

      As many people here know (but I'll mention it anyway), the name is a misnomer; there's actually no spruce used in its construction, and you can blame the press reports of the day for coming up with the Spruce Goose moniker.

      The whole thing is a masterpiece of epic engineering; the engines alone are so complex that a minibrain such as I could not hope to fully understand them. I did, however, understand the flotation devices used in the aircraft's giant pontoons - each pontoon is packed with brightly-coloured inflatable rubber beach balls, that being (I guess) the quickest and easiest way to provide the necessary bouyancy!

      1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

        Re: It's better than you might think.

        The Spruce Goose is BIG.

        And at 40 years before its time. It was not until the 80-es until the first aircraft of comparable size became a must have for a long haul airline. It will probably take at least 20 more years until the epic congestion above major air traffic hubs will necessitate us returning to the "huge flying boat" concept (modeling by several unis and consultancies all points that way). That makes it 80 years ahead of its time.

        I do not quite see how this lines up with the aforementioned microsoft product. It is not a miracle of engineering. It is not the first to introduce revolutionary concepts (hydraulic actuators, etc). It does not look well ahead of its time either.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: It's better than you might think.

          "It will probably take at least 20 more years until the epic congestion above major air traffic hubs will necessitate us returning to the "huge flying boat" concept"


          One of the things that killed the economics of flying boats is their requirement for (relatively) smooth water to land in. You'll divert your flying boat because of bad weather long before the equivalent wheeled leviathians give up and go somewhere else. Then there's the "hidden obstacle" problem. More than a few flying boats ended up submerged (or worse) due to something removing the bottom of the hull, at speed. That's without even touching on the corrosive properties of salt water.

          It's worth noting that even with the hub and spoke concept that giant aircraft embody, the vast majority of airspace congestion is due to all traffic being forced into a few narrow corridors (airways) for meatbag managability - there's a hell of a lot of sky where air-traffic simply "isn't". Great circle routes are more fuel-efficient (modulo winds) and should be handleable by more advanced ATC systems but the whole "airways" and "waypoint navigation from VOR to VOR" concept is so hardcoded into everything that it will be a while before traffic management changes - even though congestion issues are forcing everyone to realise it needed to be done 2 decades ago.

    2. MD Rackham

      Re: It's better than you might think.

      I can't think of a bigger growth market for Microsoft to enter than the design of radial aero-engines.

      Good thinking MS marketing!

      1. David 132 Silver badge

        Re: It's better than you might think.

        I can't think of a bigger growth market for Microsoft to enter than the design of radial aero-engines.

        I knew some pedant would pick up on that.

        It was, I believe, just a handy - and rather cool-looking - 3D model that Autodesk-or-whoever had given them for demo purposes.

        To most people there it probably just looked like something vaguely engineering-y and techy, replete with lots of curved pipework and complicated-looking valves as it was spun round and manipulated on the Surface Hub display.

        Only a mis-spent youth wandering round the Science Museum and reading Biggles books allowed me to recognize it for what it was.

  3. hplasm Silver badge

    "... I get the feeling that I'm going to be told to buy one fairly soon."

    Well, they can always get rid of some of the users to pay for it- and save the cash in not buying them PCs...

  4. J J Carter Silver badge
    Big Brother

    Where's the 'off' switch?

    Always on, internet connected device with voice recognition and multiple cameras in the Boardroom, you say? What's not to like?

  5. J J Carter Silver badge
    Paris Hilton

    What about streaming Pr0n?

    People's naughty bits at 5-times life-size anyone?

    Paris, as sight of her naughty bits is always welcome.

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: What about streaming Pr0n?

      People's naughty bits at 5-times life-size anyone?

      Naughty bits at 5-times life size and 50dpi?

      Ick. Might as well be ASCII art or a Piet Mondrian abstract. But hey, each to their own...

  6. ecarlseen

    Might make sense

    It's priced somewhat competitively in the digital whiteboard space, and is probably less kludgy than some of the ones I've seen (which says more about the competition than it is an endorsement of Microsoft Kwality).

  7. wsm

    Latest headline--MS now shipping Surface Hub!

    The question that came to mind--someone actually bought one? I remember some of our people getting excited about having clickable presentation screens in the conference rooms, nearly 15 years ago. The novelty wore off after some calibration difficulties and frustrations with having to reach all over the place.

    Now it's projectors everywhere just to make the picture big and everyone passes the wireless keyboard and mouse to make their point.

    Having to wave all over the place to do the same thing? What will the Surface Hub improve over that?

    Oh, and Windows 10. That's going to help sell it.

  8. TheOtherHobbes

    "Resolution: 3840 x 2160 @ 120Hz"

    So the effective resolution is around 50dpi, which is less than that of the crappiest monitor.

    This is just an enormo-TV with a very big touch panel stuck on the front. I'd be surprised if it isn't literally just that.

    At 100dpi this is going to start being a thing. 150dpi on something this big would be awesome, and would make it useful as a multiple monitor replacement that could show many windows at the same time.

    But at 50dpi, it's going to be useless for close-up detail. So it's really just a standard 4K monitor designed to be looked at from very far away, except when you're finger painting on it, when it's designed to be looked at from up close - but not really, because that combination of user requirements doesn't make much sense.

    It doesn't sound like there's a lot you can do here that you couldn't do better with an iPad Pro and a projector - excuse maybe strut around in front of it looking stylish, cool, and yet so very authoritative.

  9. This post has been deleted by its author

  10. The Nazz Silver badge

    I'll wager that the ....

    dancing girls look awesome on that.

    Saves all the travelling i 'spose.

    1. Bota

      Re: I'll wager that the ....

      Spend the same cost in Thailand and I imagine you'll have a way happier ending to the experience.

  11. jsk

    Utterly Pointless as a Presentation Device

    This thing doesn't make any sense as a presentation device.

    The screen is huge, but it has to be mounted low so that anyone using can reach all areas of the screen. And, most importantly, unlike a projection screen or video presentation display, the speaker/presenter, by definition, is alway standing in front of it, blocking the view for everyone else (well, those, close enough to the front see past the crowd) trying to see the screen.

    1. Bill B

      Re: Utterly Pointless as a Presentation Device

      I guess you've never used a whiteboard then

      1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

        I guess you've never been asked to stand back

        so the slow reader can see something in the corner. Now, multiply that by 100.

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    They chose the wrong market . . .

    Since I first saw the Surface Hub I thought it would be fantastic for university seminar rooms. Depending on the course, there are needs to write, capture, show PowerPoint, show video, demonstrate software and so on. Currently we tend to use ageing electronic whiteboards, but these are old technology now, forever going out of alignment, washed out by the slightest ray of sunshine and slow.

    Then I saw the price.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They chose the wrong market . . .

      I used one a while back at a Microsoft event.

      It was running Fruit Ninja, and it was great fun. The next day it was running two-player Flow, which was good too. There were queues waiting to use it

      These things are really easy to use, which is perhaps where they'll be better than previous electronic whiteboards and such.

      Get one in the university tutorial room, and students may even decide to show up.

  13. vostro

    Does this mean everyone's greasy hands on one piece of glass? Yuck.

  14. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    If I had the money, I'd buy one. Just because.

  15. The Average Joe

    I am buying two for the garage...

    I missed out on the Brown Zune, kin, Surface table, MSN watch, Plays for sure Music library, MS Bob, MS Bing, Windows Phone 7, Windows Vista, Windows 8, Windows 8.1 and Windows 10. Damn it I am not going to miss this one...

  16. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

    Limited Market?

    This probably is a niche device; excellent for a few situations but otherwise overpriced roadkill for most. Slurp's marketing department must be working overtime in the imbecile wing. Most people today have been using some form of computers for 20+ years. They have been burned before and have heard the hype before; thus rather jaded.

  17. BurnT'offering

    The opposite might be useful

    Camera/computer intelligently parsing a wall full of Post-Its and felt pen diagrams - saves time for the poor sod who has to type them up. And there is something about paper and felt-pens that works well. Even the biggest surface hub won't work well for more than a very few users

  18. ashwain

    Post It Notes in meeting???

    To my best recollection I've never attended a meeting where people use post it notes (what century are you from?).

    I do use a screen to present, generally for a PowerPoint deck, something to write on generally a White Board (usually OneNote as a participant), and usually audio visual device ( meeting room phone and pucks with maybe a camera, usually integrated into the screen). It can be fiddly setting this up and usually involves someone using a mobile phone cam to record the white board notes.

    The Surface Hub makes all of this very easy, integrating all of the above so whether you are in the room or remote you can share all components. We've had a beta for a while and it works great.

    1. BurnT'offering

      Re: Post It Notes in meeting???

      Lucky you - you've never been in a team that's been compelled to bond, brainstorm a bluesky vision, and condense it into a mission statement. Or, more usefullly, map a process

  19. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken Silver badge

    "Surface Hub ... a cunning Post It Note killer?"

    Don't be silly - where would people keep their passwords?

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