Microsoft has shaken up its Surface Hub 2 plans, splitting the 50-inch modular touchscreens intended for collaborative working into two products, though it means the juiciest features now won’t arrive until 2020. Previewed earlier this year, the Surface Hub 2 is targeted at businesses; while it can be used as a single display for meetings and brainstorming sessions, it promises to really come into its own when multiple panels are joined.
That way, multiple 4K screens can be synchronized into a single harmonious display. The whole thing runs Windows 10 and comes with a digital stylus for sketching and annotating. A 4K video camera and far-field microphone array turn the system into a video calling setup, too.
At the time, Microsoft said that it planned to launch the Surface Hub 2 in 2019. Today, at its Ignite 2018 conference, however, it revealed that those plans have changed somewhat. In fact, the Surface Hub 2 has now split into two different ranges.
First up, and still apparently on track to launch next year, will be the Surface Hub 2S. Set to arrive in Q2 2019, it’ll run the same software as the original Surface Hub, but on the lighter, thinner hardware shown earlier in the year. It’ll work with both Skype for Business or the new version of Microsoft Teams, but it won’t have the multi-screen tiling and rotation abilities first promised.
Those – in addition to features like multi-user log in – will have to wait until 2020. That’s when the Surface Hub 2X will arrive, using the same screen hardware but upgrading what Microsoft is referring to as “removable processor cartridges.”
That’s basically a slot-in block that can be removed, upgraded, and serviced over the lifespan of the Surface Hub 2X. It’ll mean those already with a Surface Hub 2S will be able to upgrade their smart display to the 2X functionality, and then – presumably – further update it in the future. It’ll also be that modular processor cartridge which upgrades the system to Microsoft 365.
While the delay in the full functionality that Microsoft was promising is disappointing, this is arguably a more valuable route for the Surface Hub 2 hardware to take. One of the most common complaints about all-in-one PCs is that their upgrade potential is severely limited: typically, the most you can do is swap out the storage, and maybe upgrade the RAM. However the processor, GPU, and other components are generally stuck with whatever the system initially shipped with.
This modular approach changes that. As we saw with Samsung’s “Evolution Kits” for the company’s smart TVs, it means the perfectly satisfactory display can be kept, while the processing power can be boosted as new hardware reaches the market.
Microsoft still hasn’t said how much the Surface Hub 2S will cost, and nor do we know what it will set businesses back to add the processor cartridge to turn it into a Surface Hub 2X in 2020. The first-generation Surface Hub is priced at $8,999 for the 55-inch model, while the 84-inch version is $21,999.