Look out, Ikea. Microsoft is getting into the furniture business -- sort of. The company announced a new partnership with interior design and architecture firm Steelcase to develop a series of office design concepts aimed at enhancing and improving productivity in the workplace.
While Steelcase will provide the architecture, Microsoft said it will provide the technology that will be integrated into the new design concepts.
"We are unveiling five new 'Creative Spaces' to help companies revolutionize their workplaces, both physically and digitally," Ryan Gavin, general manager of Surface Devices at Microsoft, wrote today in a blog post. "Creative Spaces are designed to help people better harness their own creative potential, transfer their creativity into their work and improve how they collaborate with their teams."
Built on the Surface Devices
At the core of the creative spaces concepts is Microsoft’s line of Surface devices, including the Surface Hub digital TV screen, the Surface Studio desktop computer, Surface Book laptop, and Surface Pro 4 tablet.
For Microsoft, the goal seems to be to make its software as central to the workings of the modern creative enterprise as its Windows operating system and Office productivity suite.
"This is not simply about creating new desks, chairs or conference rooms,” Gavin said. "This is about two committed partners coming together to reimagine what the workplace of the future will look like, paying close attention to the constantly evolving rhythm of people's days, and creating physical spaces to help individuals and teams optimize their creative potential."
From the examples displayed on Microsoft's Web site and in marketing videos for the new line, flexibility and adaptation appear to be the core features the companies are pushing. The marketing materials feature desks that can shift from sitting configurations to standing ones to allow coworkers to collaborate together more easily.
Integrating Azure with Office Design
The video also shows team members gathered around a Surface Hub, using it as a sort of digital, interactive whiteboard to collaborate on ideas. In addition, individuals can reconfigure their personal workspaces to block out distractions to help them focus better.
To facilitate the collaboration between the companies, Steelcase announced that some of its dealers in the U.S. and Canada will start reselling the Surface Hub to their clients. The company said it also plans to announce new technology-enabled workplace solutions built on Microsoft Azure Internet of Things technology.
"These solutions will provide companies with analytics that improve workplaces and solutions to help employees find the best places to do diverse types of work within the office," Microsoft said in a statement.
Steelcase will showcase its Creative Spaces concepts in 10 of their WorkLife Centers worldwide, including New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Los Angeles, Munich and London, with additional international markets to come. Creative Spaces are available exclusively through Steelcase.