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Microsoft came to ISE2015 armed with an array of Windows Surface Hub devices both 55″ and 84″ and were happy to let the show attendees get their hands on the kit. In total I counted 6 screens including a free standing device on a trolley

So what did we learn, well first off the Perceptive Pixel displays are impressive, touch response is incredible with the screens detecting not just the presence of the pen on the screen but also pressure resulting in a drawing experience which is freakily good. There really is a sense of ink flowing out of the pen in a way that other solutions fail to achieve. Flip the pen over and it functions as an eraser.

Hardware wise snippets were given away in conversation, 55″ screen is currently 1080p, the 84″ is running 4k resolution, 55″ is powered by a latest i5 with the 84″ being i7, both have 8gb RAM, 512gb SSD

From the launch videos I was under the impression the screens could detect the presenter either by Xbox Kinect style camera recognition or NFC pairing with say a mobile phone. This isn’t the case with the system being shown currently. The system detects the presence of a presenter through motion and light sensors so will come on automatically but will not identify the person using the screen.

The cameras (used in Skype for Business calls) are mounted on either side of the screen and angled in slightly, this angle combined with the wide angle feature of the camera creates a view of the presenter as they interact with content on the screen. In existing LRS systems the presenter sits in a blind spot for the remote attendees when interacting with content, or can be seem from the table by a device such as the Polycom CX roundtable. The camera view on this device is exceptional and one of the features that struck me as a big step forward .

Content sharing with a laptop in the room is done wirelessly with Miracast or by an HDMI and USB cable presented at the table – all the presentations at ISE were done using the cables. The demo that was shown repeatedly was a user sharing the screen on the laptop and then running PowerPoint – PowerPoint could then be controlled at the screen using swipe gestures to move forwards and backwards, the presenter could also use the Surface Hub pen to mark up content. This mark-up is being captured on the laptop so Surface Hub supports two way touch (over cable and Miracast)

Using Miracast provides the ability to seamlessly share content from Windows and Android mobile devices but the obvious omission is IOS devices. The only suggestion offered was to plug an Apple TV into one of the HDMI inputs on the screen but this turns the Surface Hub into a very expensive TV with all the interesting collaboration features are lost.

Picking up the pen launches OneNote to enable white boarding, this isn’t OneNote as I know it, more an enhanced whiteboard as we see on a Lync Room System. There is an option to save the content back to OneNote but this then involves signing into an account using the supplied keyboard (or on-screen keyboard) which seems a bit onerous.

This raises the question of how I access my content when using Surface Hub, one of the obstacles we have seen with adoption of LRS is teaching people how to upload content to the meeting space. Surface hub provides a number of options including USB, you can organise a Lync (Skpe4b) call and upload content to the meeting. Bringing your laptop to the room and accessing content from SharePoint, OneDrive, mapped network provides the most direct access to personal documents.

At any point it is possible to take the content displayed in the room on the screen and share it with remote colleagues using Skype for Business. Additional windows 10 applications can be installed on the Surface Hub and shared through the Skype for Business call, additionally applications running on the laptop and shared through Miracast can be presented.

Surface Hub is an extremely flexible offering in the meeting space so well worth keeping an eye on. Pricing hasn’t been announced yet although the guys on the stand spoke about ‘being competitive’ with rival products (Smart 84″ Lync Room System lists at around £18.5k so something similar??). Devices should be available before the end of 2015 and will be available in the UK.