Touching Office 365 with the Surface Hub

Using touch with Office 365 is nothing new – we could do that on our Surface (and other touchscreen) devices for quite some time.

But nothing compares to doing that on a life-size screen like on the Surface Hub. Yesterday I wrote about my first experiences with the Surface Hub now that it had been installed in our office, so it was time to start coming up with practical applications in the Office 365 world.

Microsoft has been working hard over the years to make the entire Office suite touch-enabled to suit all form factors of devices, and all modalities of working. While I’ve enjoyed this on a Surface Pro 1 through to my current Pro 3, as well as Windows 10 Mobile, Android tablet and iPad – I wanted to see what this would be like on the Surface Hub.

The below Sway presentation shows our experiment – starting from a 1:1 session to a group call, and going through a number of different applications.

We chose to focus on the applications that were most visually appealing:

  • Delve & Delve Analytics
  • SharePoint
  • Sway
  • Planner
  • Power BI (not shown)

First experiences with a Surface Hub

Last week our Surface Hub (55″ model) arrived at the ████████████ office and as you can imagine we were like children in a toy shop.

It was unpacked and installed immediately so that we could start playing with it.

Holding back our excitement we went through the recommended process to:
– Join it to the domain
– Register it to Azure Active Directory
– Enrol it with Intune
– Connect it to Exchange Online
– Connect it to Skype for Business Server

We also registered the Surface Hub into Operations Management Suite (OMS) to give us some telemetry on the device usage.

So, after playing with it what have we found? Apart from being as wonderful to use as the videos show there are several small quirks and challenges:

Individual Experience

While the Surface Hub is a group device, it is important for users to be able to access their content from the device – not necessarily requiring them to pair/share a device. On the Surface Hub a user can sign into the OneDrive for Business app which will then automatically sign them into the locally installed Excel, PowerPoint and Word apps. Unfortunately, the Power BI app does not respect this sign-in and as such requires the user to sign in separately to the app.

The Surface Hub lights up when people enter the room (ie. camera range), so a logical step further would be to provide an experience akin to that of the Xbox + Kinect where facial recognition signs the user in.

A lesser version of this would be to utilise NFC or a wearable that the Surface Hub could trust, or that is registered to the user’s profile in Azure Active Directory and Intune – allowing the user to walk up to the device and either tap their phone or enter a passcode to “own” the Hub.

Operations Management Suite

As you can see by the screenshot above only four basic metrics are available:

  • Device availability
  • Calendar sync
  • Wireless project
  • Wired projection

This is a good start, but is not enough telemetry for what an organisation would want to see for this level of investment. The kind of data customers will want to see is going to be more specifically around usage, things like:

  • Number of meetings
  • Duration of daily usage
  • Time spend in conferences / whiteboard sessions / etc.
  • Most active users (this would require the individual experience to be supported)

This additional information around usage would help determine adoption success, as well as ultimately give an indication of ROI. So many conference systems and whiteboards go unutilised, you would not want the Surface Hub to go the same way.

At some point in the next few weeks we are expecting to receive the Anniversary Update for the Surface Hub which I hope will bring some further improvements and additional features at which point I’ll write up another review of our further experiences.

Let me wrap up my initial experience with the Surface Hub like this: if you’ve ever used your Surface Pro or touch notebook and wished you could do it in full size and not on a small screen – that’s what the Surface Hub is like. It is fast, it is fluid, it is smart, it is interactive, and it is integrated. It’s rare to see a Microsoft product demo be replicated in the real world with so little effort and that’s what the Surface Hub allows.


P.S. For those of us who have been around long enough, remember when this was the Surface and supposed to be the future of touch and tables?

Look at the size of that cell phone and separate digital camera!