Surface Hub alternative: download our tools and create your own. It's a gift.
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Surface hub alternative - timelapse

Surface Hub alternative: how to create your own (simple) Surface Hub

This article will help you build your own (basic) Surface Hub alternative. Sure, it contains some technical bits, but it should make for a fun read all the same. At the end of the article, you’re invited to download some of our free “cheeky” posters as well as our “ready to use” wallpaper and video screensaver.

Reading time: 12 minutes.

Enjoy your reading.

Who are we? We are Kickle.

Kickle transforms any space into an innovative and productive meeting room. Skype for business videoconferencing (skype room system), wireless display, room booking, whiteboard, and so much more. Kickle comes with everything needed to conduct your meetings with perfect peace of mind. A true Surface Hub alternative.

Tesla is just a car with a battery. Really?

 

You may be convinced that Surface Hub is a great product—but maybe it’s over your budget, or maybe you don’t need all the features that come with it. After all, Surface Hub is just a computer connected to a large touchscreen (in the same sense that Tesla is just a car with a battery), right? You may even be wondering “Why couldn’t I just create my own Surface Hub alternative”?

Alright, let’s do it!

First, the features

 

You’re going to need to implement some basic but important features:
1 – A whiteboard (plus a way to share and save whiteboard pages)
2 – A wireless display solution (compatible with any device)
3 – A Skype for Business videoconferencing capability
4 – A room-booking feature (compatible with Exchange)
5 – A way to launch and use external apps

Moreover, all of the above must be extraordinarily simple for the end user to use, with virtually ZERO learning curve. This is what we call the ZERO TIME concept.

ZERO TIME concept

 

The ZERO time concept means the user:
– Should require ZERO time to understand the BASIC features of your product
– Should require ZERO time to launch a BASIC feature
– Should require ZERO time to configure anything related to the use of a BASIC feature.
If the user wants to use some of the more advanced capabilities, then they would be fine to spend a reasonable amount of time learning those features.

Consider that a user has ZERO time to lose figuring out the product once a meeting is already in motion. On top of that, organizers have the pressure of hosting the other meeting participants without looking like an idiot in front of them! At the IT department, this is our daily challenge: to make life simple for users so that they can focus on their real jobs (which are not IT-related).

We’ve developed KICKLE based on this concept of simplification: only three buttons to make the user’s job as easy as possible whilst in a meeting.

Before diving deeper into this subject, let’s step back and try to answer the following question: Why is combining a stand-alone Windows 10 computer and a large-size touchscreen not enough?

Why is a stand-alone Windows 10 computer not enough?

 

Let’s look at one example: the easel pad (actually, the most basic component of any meeting room, right?).

So, you’ve connected a Windows 10 computer to a large-size touchscreen in your meeting room, finally kicking that old easel pad to the curb. Users enter the room to begin their meeting. The organizer needs to draw something, but all they see is a large screen with a Windows login page. “Drats, someone has stolen the easel pad!”

Perhaps some of our incredibly informative posters can be of help 😉

(This material has been created for sarcastic purposes only. Do not take to heart!)

Surface Hub alternative - sarcastic poster 1-1
Surface Hub alternative - sarcastic poster 2-1
Surface Hub alternative - sarcastic poster 3-1
Surface Hub alternative - sarcastic poster 4-1

 

We’ve also designed posters for the wireless display feature (for those using the integrated Miracast feature on Windows 10). Super helpful, huh?

Surface Hub alternative - sarcastic poster 5-1
Surface Hub alternative - sarcastic poster 6-1

Surface Hub alternative - sarcastic poster 7-1

 

So, back to the question: Why is combining a stand-alone Windows 10 computer and a large-size touchscreen not enough?
There’s one reason for this: it would simply be too complicated for a “normal” user (that is, a non-tech savvy user) to employ.

And this was just one example of the most basic feature: the easel pad. Now, we’ll leave it to you to design other posters explaining the room-booking and videoconferencing features. Good luck :).

Now then, how can you make your own Surface Hub alternative with respect to the ZERO time concept?

A very (very) basic Surface Hub alternative

 

Let’s attempt to create a very basic model of the Surface Hub—at the lowest cost, with the least amount of effort and in the shortest time possible.

First, you’ll need to configure your operating system. We assume you use Skype for Business, in which case you’d better use a Windows 10 operating system. You can either use a Windows 10 IOT or Enterprise, as you prefer.

As we have no way to force the user to sign out, you obviously cannot ask them to sign in. Then, autologin must be activated. Moreover, signing in could take several seconds or several minutes, depending on your organization. This, of course, does not fit with the ZERO time concept.

1 – Rename the computer with the meeting room name. (so that Miracast will be easier to use)
2 – Create a user account with user rights only.
3 – Configure the autologin to automatically login with this user.
(you can use this simple tool: https://docs.microsoft.com/en-us/sysinternals/downloads/autologon)
4 – Configure the power settings (so that the computer remains powered on all day).
5 – Configure Windows Update (to prevent installations from occurring during a meeting).
6 – Activate Miracast (Look for “projecting to this PC” in the Windows 10 settings).
7 – Configure the screen saver for 15 minutes.
8 – Configure the screen saver default image (download link below).
9 – Replace the wallpaper image (download link below).
10 – Create application shortcuts and place them on the wallpaper.
11 – Deactivate “auto arrange icons”.

We suggest you use these free apps:
• Miracast.
• Microsoft Whiteboard.
• Office Suite (the mobile version).
• Skype for Business.
• Google Chrome.

Wallpaper and video- screensaver: it’s a gift!

 

Here is a wallpaper you may like to use (for non-commercial use). No charge, it’s a gift!

You just need to place your application shortcuts on the wallpaper and deactivate “auto arrange icons”.

wallpaper surface hub alternative

And here is a screensaver you could also use (for non-commercial use also). No charge, it’s also a gift!

Surface hub alternative - timelapse

Download this high-resolution video and the high-resolution wallpaper here:

Note: to use a video as a screensaver, you can use this free tool: https://sourceforge.net/projects/videosaver

Limitations

 

Actually, there are plenty of limitations. Even if you lock the computer at the maximum, this “very basic surface hub” is still going to be way too complicated to use for non-IT folk. You would need some pretty awesome posters to pull it off :). On top of that, with Miracast you can only display Windows devices (and some Androids also).
With all that said, this type of setup could potentially work for small companies who have the means to teach their customers how to use it. It may also be a viable solution in scenarios where the customers are able to manage themselves autonomously, and if the users are tech-savvy. Certainly, however, such an arrangement could never work for medium or large companies.

Surface Hub alternative

 

Considering the above challenges, you might just consider giving Kickle a try.
Kickle is the whole package: a complete room system, which includes Skype for Business videoconferencing, a Whiteboard feature, wireless display, and room booking.

If you’d like to try Kickle out today, all you need to do is ask.

Kickle transforms any space into an innovative and productive meeting room. Skype for business videoconferencing (skype room system), wireless display, room booking, whiteboard, and so much more. Kickle comes with everything needed to conduct your meetings with perfect peace of mind. A true Surface Hub alternative.

Laetitia Lahaye
laetitia.lahaye@kickle.com


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