Microsoft is starting to take preorders for its 85-inch Surface Hub 2S today. The large screen device, originally unveiled in April 2019, will now go on sale in January 2021, just missing Microsoft’s initial target of releasing the hardware at some point in 2020. Microsoft is pricing the 85-inch model starting at $21,999.99.
A $21,999.99 collaboration display might not seem like the type of device that businesses are rushing to buy in 2020 as a pandemic has kept a large number of people working remotely. Microsoft acknowledges that reality and claims the Surface Hub 2S has helped bridge remote teams and central response locations for hospitals, health care providers, and even in education.
“We’ve seen schools and educational institutions accelerating their digital transformation driven by the need to offer equitable remote or hybrid learning for students,” says Robin Seiler, Microsoft’s corporate vice president of devices. “To increase engagement, many institutions are replacing older technology including projectors and whiteboards with digital collaboration solutions like Surface Hub.”
Microsoft believes Surface Hub could act as a way to ease the transition back into the office or as part of a hybrid environment. “As many parts of the world move back to the office or plan for new hybrid and satellite work environments, Surface Hub will be there to ease that transition – even with new considerations in space planning like the need for social distancing,” says Seiler. “One benefit to a larger screen that Hub provides is that it can help implement social distancing for people to stay six feet apart while working together.”
I’m not sure how many businesses will agree that Surface Hub is a priority for returning to offices, but the devices have certainly been popular, with reports from a few years ago suggesting the devices were selling out at one point.
It was supposed to be a big year for the Surface Hub 2S, and Microsoft had planned to use a special process cartridge to upgrade the smaller 50-inch devices’ internals. Microsoft scrapped those plans back in February, just weeks before the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic. At the time, Microsoft promised a software update for Surface Hub 2S owners instead.
That software update is now arriving in October, dubbed the Windows 10 Team 2020 Update. It includes support for the new Microsoft Edge browser, dual-pen inking, passwordless sign-in using FIDO2 security keys, and the ability to quick transition a Microsoft Teams call to the larger display. There are also a bunch of security and management improvements for IT admins to better manage these displays in workplaces.
Finally, Microsoft is also allowing owners of the 50-inch Surface Hub 2S to use a full version of Windows 10 on the device. Surface Hubs ship with a variant of Windows 10 that’s designed for the bigger screens, and they’ll now be free to use the full version of Windows 10. This will also include sign-in support with Windows Hello through the fingerprint reader on the Surface Hub 2S.