By Jeffrey Schwartz
Microsoft has begun shipping the new Surface Hub 2S, its video conferencing digital whiteboard platform that aims to address the emerging desire among customers to create mobile huddle rooms on the fly. Introduced earlier this year, Microsoft has partnered with office furniture maker Steelcase to develop a custom cart on wheels optimized to move and create ad hoc video conferences.
The new Surface Hub 2S is a substantial upgrade over the inaugural version, optimized with a more modern active touch, 4k display and more tightly integrated with Office apps and the Microsoft Teams collaboration and conferencing experience.
However, Microsoft has emphasized its partnership with Steelcase, opting to launch the system through an event at the furniture provider’s New York City office. In addition to co-designing the new Steelcase Roam mobile cart, which resembles an easel on wheels, the two companies are going to market together.
The pact will let Steelcase’s longtime dealer network offer Surface Hub 2S with the new Roam, while giving Microsoft partners the opportunity to upsell the $9,000 conferencing system with the optional mobile stand for $1,500.
“Between Microsoft and Steelcase, it’s really the best of both worlds,” said Jennifer McCready, Steelcase’s global channel chief. “We’re the experts in space and design and Microsoft is the expert from the technology standpoint. Together we are helping organizations thoughtfully integrate the workplace and technology to encourage new behaviors at work. We think that creative and collaborative behaviors will deliver better performance.”
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McCready says Steelcase has created alliances with distributors Ingram Micro, Synnex and Tech Data, and collectively about 20 authorized device resellers (ADRs) are set to start deploying the combined offering.. Early indications suggest that customers will opt for the Steelcase Roam, and/or the alternative wall mount, she said. Steelcase also has partnered with APC, which has developed an optional lithium-ion battery system called the APC Charge, power supply for scenarios where customers want to use the system in a location without easy access to power.
Stephen Yochum, Ingram Micro’s UCC director and general manager, said the pipeline for Surface Hub with the Steelcase Roam mobile cart added on looks strong.
“This makes perfect sense, particularly with the focus being on customer experience with immersive, unified communications these days and so we’re excited to bring Steelcase on,” Yochum said.
To bring more channel partners into its fold, Steelcase has created a partner portal that for now is accessible without a username or password.
“It includes everything from a ‘Why Steelcase?’ message to editable PowerPoint presentations where partners can insert their own logo and contact detail, brochures and other sales-enablement material with messaging around the story and the narrative around mobility and the workspace,” McCready said.
Steelcase doesn’t offer a deal registration program, she acknowledged.
“What we are working on is special pricing and we’re working on a demo program,” she said.
James Keane, Steelcase’s president and CEO, said the company believes the mobile huddle room on wheels will become more common in modern workplaces. At the launch event in April, Keane said the company has conducted research that has found that fewer people work in fixed offices or cubicles than they did 10 years ago.
“Today people have become fluid,” Keane said. “They’re moving around the space, sometimes they have unassigned office, they can work wherever they want. But for the most part, the furniture is still fixed. The furniture has got to adapt on-demand. We can’t have to call facilities to come in and change it. The users themselves have to be able to reconfigure the furniture at speed of work, as fast as work changes.”