Inside Microsoft’s InfoComm 2015 booth, the largest booth at North America’s largest pro AV trade show, you’ll find AVI-SPL, North America’s largest integration firm.
The reason is that Microsoft is leaning on AVI-SPL, in part, to distribute and professionally deploy its new Surface Hub collaboration solution.
Microsoft Surface Hub is the IT giant’s answer to widespread demand for conference room collaboration.
“To be frank,” AVI-SPL’s Joseph Laezza says, “one of the discussion we had internally is how committed is Microsoft? And we’ve asked them.”It will be available beginning July 1, according to a Microsoft press release, which adds that that the Surface Hub allows users “to harness the power of Windows 10, Skype for Business, Office, OneNote and Universal Windows apps to deliver a new kind of productivity experience optimized for groups. The unique experience is designed to be just as engaging for people working together in the same room as for those connecting remotely.”
It’s available in a 55-inch version for $6,999 and an 84-inch version for $19,999 which is 4K-certified by Crestron.
Microsoft saw a multi-billion-dollar opportunity stemming the growing number of conference rooms that are video-enabled, says Dale Bottcher, AVI-SPL senior VP of sales. As an integration firm with about $570 million in 2014 revenue with approximately 43 percent derived from the corporate market where the firm has long focused on unified communication and collaboration, AVI-SPL is a logical partner for Microsoft.
Meanwhile, Microsoft is working with several partners to deploy Surface Hub, including distributors ALSO, Ingram Micro, Synnex Corp, Tech Data and TD Maverick; IT resellers Atea, Bechtle, CSI Collaboration Solutions, Inmac, Insight, Kelway, Misco, PCM, Telstra; and other AV integration firms Red Thread and Global Presence Alliance members Whitlock and Sharp’s Audio Visual.
“Surface Hub is a game changer; enabling true collaboration by combining Skype for Business with HD video and interactivity for any meeting space,” says Julian Phillips, vice president of Whitlock. “Our customers have been waiting for the ‘real deal’ and we can’t wait to bring it to them.”
“Red Thread is focused on helping its clients create innovative environments that inspire their organizations and people to excel,” says John Mitton, Red Thread’s VP of audio-visual group. “Collaboration is such a critical ingredient in creating high performance work spaces. We are very excited about our partnership with Microsoft, the world’s premier enterprise IT provider, in introducing Surface Hub, an exciting technology which will accelerate organizations’ ability to collaborate. We see the Surface Hub as a natural extension of our portfolio of solutions. We have seen increasing demand from our clients to incorporate Skype for Business (Lync) in our solutions to allow organizations to maximize their IT investments in infrastructure, software licenses, training and workflow. Surface Hub will satisfy this need.”
“A further example of Microsoft’s commitment to the AV channel for Surface Hub is evident in its tapping of an initial eight members of the Global Presence Alliance in various key markets,” says Tim St. Louis, Sharp’s Audio Visual’s executive VP of sales and marketing. “With $1 billion [U.S. dollars] in global AV revenues among them, GPA members ATEA (Nordics), GMS (Germany), Feltech (UK), Videlio (France), Pro AV (Australia), ESCO (Singapore), Sharp’s Audio Visual (Canada) and Whitlock (US) provide global enterprises a single integrated delivery model of specialized audio visual integrators.
“Microsoft clearly recongnizes the demand from global enterprise must be met with an exceptional experience in deployment and support for both the user, and the project implementation and support teams. The GPA with its audio visual-centric skill set and presence in more than 30 countries and 170+ cities is extremely attractive to Microsoft.”
Being able to talk about a Microsoft collaboration solution with clients’ IT departments is significant for AV integrators, says Joseph Laezza, AVI-SPL’s senior VP of unified communications and collaboration, adding that it’s mutually beneficial.
“Microsoft thought it very important to partner up with AV system integrators ,” he says. “They indicated it’s real important to find the right partners. AVI-SPL surfaced because we are the largest integrator in the world and we were a perfect fit. As the discussions progressed with Microsoft we became enthused about the opportunity for a number of reasons. At the top of the list is that decision making [among clients] had been shifting to IT personnel, and who better than Microsoft in relations to IT to partner with?”
During InfoComm 2015 Microsoft will host select partners, including AVI-SPL, in its booth to discuss the Surface Hub.