Putting a video monitor on a wheeled transport isn’t a new idea; audio-visual “carts” are almost the definition of old-school AV. But the combination of advancing technology and modern office design is changing the way we think about this kind of implementation.
In a recent post on our IT/collaboration website, No Jitter, my colleague Beth Schultz covered the latest announcement from the partnership between Microsoft and Steelcase. The release features a Microsoft Surface hub touch-screen monitor, mounted on a Steelcase-built mobile stand.
“This product transforms from a static device—static, that’s what we know about big screens—to a mobile, large screen, collaborative device,” Beth quotes Panos Panay, Microsoft chief product officer, as saying. “It does for the collaboration device what the laptop did for the desktop. It creates that same freedom … [and] that adaptability that’s so incredibly important.”
We’ve become so overwhelmed by smartphones and tablets that many of us may not remember—or may be too young to remember—when the laptop was the essence of mobile work. Those of us who have been in the workforce as knowledge workers for a decade or more can probably remember the point at which our employers quit buying us big PC workstations and just gave everyone a laptop as their sole computing device.
You could argue that this transition was one of the factors that launched the move toward open offices: If you could only work at your desk, you were chained to that desk both productively and emotionally. Once you started carrying your whole work life around with you, your relationship with your desk—and what you did there all day--was never quite the same.
Of course what made the laptop practical as the default computing device was high-bandwidth WiFi, which is also what makes something like the new Microsoft-Steelcase product practical, along with Moore’s Law—the principle that computing power doubles every 18 months while falling in cost by half. Moore’s Law means that the “cart” is no longer a bulky mess of boxes and wires, but a sleek, very portable accessory.
Thanks to Moore’s Law, we take it as a given that any piece of technology is going to get cheaper, smaller (or at least lighter), and more powerful. That suggests that someday we won’t even need to bother with pushing sleek, easy-to-use devices around the office. A high-quality, large-screen, collaborative device like the Surface Hub might be practical to deploy permanently in any or every room, the way that every person can have a smartphone or tablet at work, or the way that we came to expect a Polycom speakerphone in just about any shared room. And when flexible screens finally do pan out, we might even have portable large screens we can each carry around with us.
But that’s likely to be well in the future. For now, the state of the art for office technology is reaching the point where we can “deploy” video on the fly in just about any room, drawing from a shared pool of portable devices like the Surface Hub 2S. As you’re considering the way your enterprise uses its office space and how you provide technology that lets your workers collaborate as effectively as possible, these types of solutions may make sense for you.