Microsoft’s Surface Hub 2 is a bold attempt at changing how we work

Instead of offering a giant 84-inch Hub 2, you can connect several displays together (up to four) for a similar big-screen effect. Of course, you’ll have to live with the bezels breaking up the image. But the tiling strategy will likely be far more palatable to IT departments, since they can build up their investment in the Surface Hub 2, instead of plonking down $21,899 for an 84-inch monstrosity few people might use. (Panay also hinted that we’ll see other Surface Hub 2 sizes, eventually.)

According to Robin Seiler, a general manager at Microsoft’s hardware division, and one of the co-creators of the Surface Hub 2, it’s a device that’s “designed for modern work.” Specifically, it’s a big bet on the push towards group collaboration, something that’s becoming increasingly common as digital natives enter the workforce. Seiler says current statistics indicate that around 50 percent of our work every day is done with another person.

“Surface Hub [1] really taught us two things,” Seiler said. “When people want to meet together, they don’t want the friction of getting things started… But the other thing that our customers tell us is, it allows people to get up and stand side-by-side. And when you work together like that, you dynamically create, instead of me doing a little bit, and then sending you an email and tell you to check it out later.”

To make collaboration easier, the Surface Hub 2 also lets multiple people sign in with their Microsoft accounts, allowing you and a colleague to access your files without grinding your productivity to a halt. It’s also yet another sign of how deeply the Surface Hub 2 is connected to Microsoft Teams. You’re free to run any collaboration suite — it’s still a Windows PC, after all — but in many ways the device feels like a Trojan Horse for Microsoft’s corporate wares.

It’s too early to tell if the Surface Hub 2 will be the groundbreaking workplace tool Microsoft hopes. But, at the very least, it has a better chance than its predecessor. The company will start testing the Surface Hub 2 with partners later this year, and it expects to officially release the device in 2019. There aren’t any pricing details, either, but hopefully it’ll be cheaper than the $8,999 Surface Hub.

“In product making, I believe there’s always a difference between an emotional and a non-emotional product,” Panay said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s an IT space, or a business environment. At the end of the day, if there’s something that gets people connected to the products themselves, it kind of brings the best out.”

Dana Wollman contributed to this report.

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