Surface charging carts lead the way for mass school and enterprise adoption

When it comes to Microsoft’s Surface platform, individual consumers are but one demographic of the all-in-one device, but Redmond has a long history of dealing with enterprise and schools as well. Indeed, the Surface Pro 3 seems even more poised to be the perfect enterprise device for companies to distribute to employees.

In the Microsoft Store, we recently came across the availability of ‘charging carts’ for the Surface series. These carts can store and charge from 32 to 36 Surface and Surface Pro devices (even with cases). There are currently two versions of the cart, running between $1499 (opens in new tab) and $2199 (opens in new tab) and they can be purchased direct or through Microsoft.

We spoke with the company behind the carts, Anthro ( (opens in new tab)), based out of Tualatin, Oregon, about the future of Surface. They’ve been making what they call ‘technology furniture’ since 1984 (opens in new tab) including standup desks, which myself and Kevin Michaluk use daily for our Mobile Nations work.

In talking with Michael Mullen, who’s the product development director at Anthro, I was able to learn a little bit more about the firm’s goals and plans for Surface and specifically the Surface Pro 3. The company has been working through the “Designed for Surface (opens in new tab)” program, which lets Microsoft work with accessory manufacturers. Anthro is a ‘Depth’ partner with Microsoft, allowing them to make highly customized products for various organizations.

Enterprise and schools are the other side of the Surface story. Anthro is trying to “optimize the use of Surface for multiple different vertical markets – specifically healthcare, retail, education” and sees a large opportunity for many companies and organizations who need mobile computing power – real computing power, as opposed to Chromebooks and iPads.

ANthro Surface cart

Anthro has had success with the Surface carts being deployed in schools and see the Surface Pro 3 going even further with enterprise in 2014. Indeed just this morning, Microsoft announced huge new deals with BMW Group, The Coca-Cola Company and Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy for the Surface Pro 3 to be used by their employees. The Anthro carts are perfect for these environments since it allows higher level IT management and even cable management of the Surface Pro on a mass scale.

The carts themselves can hold up to 36 devices for $2199 version and they will even work with the Type cover attached, cases, etc. The bays are modular and not restricted to specific sizes so even the Surface Pro 3 will fit in these carts without modification and firms can mix and match Surface devices.

ANthro Surface cart

I asked Mullen about carts for smaller organizations, who may not need to store and charge 32 or 36 Surface units. Anthro is currently looking into and developing similar carts that can hold a more modest 6 to 12 Surfaces, making them ideal for small businesses and other markets where they have less space and fewer employees.

ANthro Surface cart

Personally, I found all of this information interesting because it shows that the Surface is being adopted to large enterprises and educational institutions. While the consumer angle is always fun to cover, these mass deployments create the real long-term success of the Surface series. Anthro is but one company looking into and solving these problems for healthcare, businesses and schools and it suggests the Surface Pro 3 may have a bright future in that market. In using the Surface Pro 3 for the last week, there is wiggle room for consumers if they “need” to have it, but I can’t think of a more ideal device for professionals. It’s great to talk to companies like Anthro to see how, behind the scenes, they’re helping to drive adoption for the Surface.

Are you a small business who’s considering adoptiong the Surface Pro 3 for your employees? What are some of the obstacles you see for success of the Surface Pro 3 for professionals? Let us know in comments!

Daniel Rubino

Daniel Rubino is the Editor-in-chief of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft since 2007 when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, laptops, next-gen computing, and for some reason, watches. Before all this tech stuff, he worked on a Ph.D. in linguistics, watched people sleep (for medical purposes!), and ran the projectors at movie theaters because it was fun.

  • For those curious about my Anthro Elevate standup desk, you can see it here on my Instagram and I'll be doing a review for it the coming weeks for our #MobileFit coverage.
  • Does it go up and down easily? Or is it stuck in that position?
  • Goes up and down, driven with an electric motor and touch button controls. Pretty awesome. It has a 16-outlet powerstrip behind it O_o.
  • Sweet. A friend at work just got a big platform for his desktop that you put your monitors and keyboard on, and when he wants to stand, he just lifts it up.
  • Nice, been looking into a standing desk. Glad to have another option to consider.
  • Totally worked to sell these last year when the RT education promotion was going.  They're pretty legit but suuuper expensive!  But then again they're built like tanks and your Surface is almost incapable of taking any kind of electrical shock that would damage the PSU.  Quality.
  • Great feedback. Yeah, Anthro is no joke. Industrial stuff. My desk is amazing.
  • Suweet! I'm gonna ask my boss to get me something similar when we have mo VC money come in for our spinoff. Adjusting the table height up or down is the selling point for me
  • Am I on 'Surface 3 Central'?!?
    :) :D
  • Heh, let's just say our expanding coverage and our limited name has not gone un-noticed. Big plans ahead!
  • I definitely don't mind seeing other stuff like this. I think it needs to be Windows Mobile Central. All of their systems are so tightly tied together, as a developer I like to see the stuff about Surfaces as well. (could care less about Xbox. Lol). And since Surfaces run Windows, whatever you learn there applies to desktops anyways.
  • But windows mobile was the old os for smartphones names. I don't think wpc should back track imo.
  • Or, just simply 'Windows Central'.
  • Or just simply MS Central
  • MicroCentral, Microsoft Central, MsCentral, Windows Central, Windows Portable Central, Windowport Central, Windowport Universe, Windows Universe, Windows Portable Universe, Microsoft Portable Universe, Microsoft Xtranet, Windows Xtranet, SpyOnRedmond
  • Or MicroCentral
  • Or, 'One Central'
  • ^THIS I made a post about this a while back...    
  • Well I personally am glad to here it, I very much enjoy the the coverage here on WPC... It may be about XBO or Surface or Windows in general but Android C has tablets, why not us? Xbox is only going to get closer to WP as is the rest of the ecosystem so it makes sense to cover more things Microsoft... Sure Nokia dont even make phones any more who are you to write about ^.^ keep it up!!!!!!
  • Yeah, we know it's 'WP' central, but there's really no where else to go for good coverage! I would like to see more of this kind of stuff :)
  • Wish my school was like this, and had Surfaces. Our school has CrapBooks and iTabs, and some PCs, but most are old...
  • My hole school has Windows 7 computers but they suck because there were originally Windows Vista computers. I like Microsoft but I bring a bootable USB that's has Ubuntu on it because its faster. (the school doesn't notice) if they did ill probably get suspended for vandalism or something)
  • Windows 7 is basically a more optimized version of Vista. There shouldn't be any issues running windows 7 on Vista machines. Maybe they bought these when Vista launched and OEMs were really using cheap outdated XP machines and running Vista on them. This is why Vista developed a bad reputation. There was nothing really wrong with Vista. It was just a bit of a resource hog and didn't run well on older hardware. I installed windows 7 on some old XP hardware and it runs fine.
  • iTabs lol. They probably got them at CVS. You know, one of those deals where you buy a couple of coke bottles and get an android iTab for free :)
  • My university provides us with Surface RT's on loan but they are so popular that I have never been able to get hold of one.
  • We also have a bunch of ChromeCrooks and iPuds.   Desperately wished we had surfaces. I think even just plain Surface 2s would suffice. I imagine a day when all my students either purchase or rent a surface and they are responsible for it all year long and they can move freely between classes with them. This makes every room a "computer lab".
  • My school had chalk boards and spiral notebooks. Even in college it was punch cards and collaters.
  • Sliderule calculators as well?
  • That would be my father's school.
  • Those carts look AMAZING! Now to buy 50 Surface Pro 3s...
  • nice, hope people won't grab the wrong one not belong to them. speaking of personalizing, I wish microsoft would provide more choices of type covers in the future. I really want a black leather one, make sp3 looks like a real premium padfolio when closed. I'm planning to make a diy leather skin for the type cover if microsoft won't.
  • Actually this is why a surface is a great device for schools and enterprise. It doesn't matter if you grab the wrong one. You have separate logins for each user and the preferences and setting get synced. If you are using one drive, your documents get synced too. Microsoft demoed this before. You can go between windows 8 devices and your data follows you. As long as you have the same apps installed on all the devices, user just grab an available device and go. With metro apps, if it isn't installed, you just tab the tile and it will be installed. Obviously, x86 apps need to be installed manually, but I believe IT admins can push the same apps to all devices.
  • Sounds like it could make surface pro a server like product for small businesses
  • anthro link is linking locally.
  • yeah it's linked to daniel's desktop.
  • heh, fixed
  • That shows that MS is looking to make serious inroads into Enterprise - good!
  • I'm pretty sure Microsoft already has inroads since they are the predominant backbone of most companies. And I don't doubt enterprise will catch on to the surface soon.
  • This site might as well be called Windows Central.
  • Might as well be! Hmmm... but we can do better than that name ;)
  • Hmm, Daniel hinting at a possible re-branding of WPCentral? Can't wait to hear what you guys have in mind, or maybe another contest is on the horizon. ;)
  • Well then, how about Microsoft Central?
  • Underdog Central?
  • The company I work for employs laptop charging carts already. Considering the size of regular laptops, the cart is monsterous and so is the cable management. :( Hmm.. now to convince upper management to replace the laptops with Surface Pro 3's...
  • Start by showing them this article :P and good luck!
  • Wonder how the Surfaces plug into the power?
  • The charging carts use the existing SP3 cords.  One end plugs into secure IT area in back (see pictures above).  In the front,  the divider has an integrated cable managment detail that routes the cords to the front and locates the connector directly next to the power inlet.   The best part is when SP4 comes out, you can just swap out the cords and continue use of the cart.
  • It's The Man. All bow.
  • That's pretty cool. When I was in highschool we had a couple of Macbook "mobile labs" and they were similar to those carts and would hold about 25-30 Apple laptops.
  • Which high school did you go to? Teenagers having MacBooks if kinda unexpected.
  • This is great and all but if MS was serious about education they'd bring down older surface prices (SP2).  My wife works at a school and they're still using Win95 on some ancient Dells (and only SOME of the classrooms have 5 max). Why?  because education budgets are TINY and can barely afford to pay the teachers decent salaries let alone pay for decent tech.  
  • I see your point but I'm 99% sure Microsoft has programs with schools for heavy discounts on software and hardware. They don't pay retail.
  • honestly, I don't think it matters. surface, even at cost, it is too expensive. This looks in place at my overpriced doctor where a stupid xray costs more than my monthly mortage payment. I'm amazed they used kids for the images. You have to be in some top notch private school for the MS executives in Belevue if they think this will work as advertised.
  • Not necesarily true. My daughter graduated from a public HS a year ago and all the kids in the Communications program at the school were issued MacBooks for the full four years.  Unfortunaltey she became accustomed to the Mac and "needed" a Mac for college. Kids, sheesh.
  • I can assure you most schools do not do such thing :) have you kept an eye to the sad state of US public schools?
  • Los Angeles Unified bought a bunch of ipads and I believe they paid around $700 for the last generation lower end ipads. They are paying more than retail. It came with some software that didn't fully work, and overpriced case, and security that was hacked by the students within days of receiving the devices. The ipad project was for $1 billion. They are using money form 25 year bonds to pay for devices that are lucky to be still usable after 5 years. Many schools do have money. They are just badly mismanaged and much of the money is spent on administration and never makes it to the classroom. At least if they bought the SP or surface, Microsoft would provide discounts, it could run all the legacy education apps the schools already have, it has much better security manangement, and the students can actually use them to do their work. You think a single student will be typing a report on an ipad?
  • I'm not sure the fact it is a surface or an ipad can prevent abuse and waste. I'm also not sure most districts can fork 1 billion dollars for an electronics purchase. I see a LOT of chromebooks because they are cheap. This should tell you why no matter how good this is, and how great they tout it, it is too expensive.  
  • Grossly inflated prices have never held Apple back
  • "companies and organizations who need mobile computing power – real computing power, as opposed to Chromebooks and iPads." My favorite part of the article overall lol
  • I have been using the Surface RT for my computing needs as a realtor. I've been holding out on getting the Surface 2 because I thought that Microsoft would have been about to announce the Surface 3. That being said,I thought about it and the Surface Pro 3 is the perfect device for someone in my field. I wish Microsoft would show it to my peers,who all seem to be stuck on iCrap. In fact everyone who works in the industry for that matter. I have seen some Surfaces and Windows Phones out there,and that always puts a smile on my face. "companies and organizations who need mobile computing power – real computing power, as opposed to Chromebooks and iPads." I'd also add individuals to that statement. Not in regards to the carts obviously,but just in general.
  • I'm pretty sure there are iPad charging carts. This isn't going to lead to some amazingballs breakthrough in education.
  • You have it backwards. It's the fact that infrastructure around the Surface line is building up with products like these and the 'Designed for Surface' program. Nor where did I say this was unique to the Surface line. Let me reverse that: what if this story was "Surface has no support for enterprise mass adoption due to lack of interest from manufacturers". It's also of interest because companies and institutions may not know about these options, nor the forthcoming smaller carts.
  • Usually love Daniel Rubino's writing, but this time 1) corroborate means something else 2) by definition there's no such thing as "more ideal"
  • Fixed. Fun fact, I've written 1.32 million words on this site (seriously, no joke), so yeah, I can't get them all ;)
  • well somebody has great expectations for this device. But they really, really need to lower the price if they hope US schools, which are basically bankrupt due to "financial conservaties" that see education as an "entitlement".
  • Sorry, education is bankrupt because liberals tend to spend too much money on things that don't actually improve education. LAUSD is one of the most liberal districts in the country in one of the most liberal states in the country and has one of the worst ranked education programs. Nearly half of California's budget goes to education and yet it is never enough and the education never improves. Main problem is that liberal are aligned with unions that get them to provide benefit and retirement programs that are extremely generous. How many people in the private sector can retire at age 52 and receive about 70% of their salary and a pension? How many get fully paid insurance for the whole family and get to keep it after they retire? This is where the education funds are going, not to the classroom. Entitlements is something liberals believe in. Conservatives believe education is a previlege. You are not entitled to an education or anything else in life. You have to earn everything.  Taxpayers are paying for you to get a free education and if aren't willing to take full advantage of that and aren't working hard at school, then go get the menial, low wage job you earned.
  • *Slow clap.
  • You should buy some cream for that, i hear it can be extremely irritating.
  • I live and teach in Idaho, and our state is extremely conservative.  Still, our educational system is also bankrupt but for completely different reasons.  Our teachers are near the lowest paid in the nation, and our students receive the second to lowest amount of funding per student.  I have a masters degree plus additional education and receive 40% of what a similarly educated professional in the private sector makes.  I cannot retire at age 52 and receive 70% of my benefits.  I do not get fully paid insurance and pay over $230/mo to insure my 4yr old son.  When I retire, I will need to be prepared to pay for my health insurance.  The conservative leaders of my state vote year after year to cut funding in education to lower taxes.  The families in my school district on average pay more for garbage disposal than they do to educate their children.  Each year I weep as our most talented educators leave for greener pastures in Washington, Oregon, and California.  Our state celebrates when our standardized test scores are average when compared to the nation. 
  • it is the sad state of many areas unfornately. until this country sees that a well funded public education system which attracts talent is good for everybody, the US will further fall behind the developed nations of the world and in turn cripple any future prosperity. Sadly the moment you want to increase education budgets and pay teachers more, one party screams "SOCIALISM" and we're right back to the dark ages.
  • I don't know if liberals or conservatives spend more. What I can tell you is that there is one party that believes public education should be a priority for it raises people out of poverty, and another party that believes public education is something to be gutted from funds as much as possible for they don't like to pay taxes on any public service of any kind specially if it benefits those that cannot afford private schoools. you tell me which is which. 
  • alright! Looks good!. Microsoft is thinking forward and considering a good peripheral support in the grand scheme of things. This does however still convince me that windows 8.1 on the surface pro still needs some serious software poishising to make the use of the stylus a better experience. The pro three stylus experience appears to be better than the previous models, but I would like to see other factors in the stylus and inking experience improved. See below:      
  • Great to see more advances into the schools. I have two in High school that are given iPads and they are absolutely "iCrap". The district has crippled them to a point of being unusable. One of them hasn't taken the iPad to school since Thanksgiving break and the other takes it once a week for a club she is in.
    They use One Note, and Office lens on their WP and come home jump on their laptop to finish the work. They have become so efficient within the Microsoft ecosystem that its amazing to see the productivity and application they can do. They have changed a few of the students to the Microsoft ecosystem this year by working off all of there devices.
    It would be nice to have a school login that works at home and at school, and the kids could start or stop assignments at either place.
  • Yea!  This is my company!  Thanks for the great write up Daniel!  We are very proud to make all of our products right here in Oregon.  Raw materials come in the front and finished products go out the back and everything is made to last.  Tired of sitting at your cube all day?  Check out our one touch sit/stand desks...I use an Elevate Wrap and it is nice to be able to sit or stand throughout the day.  Some of my co-workers use a treadmill or mini elliptical with their desks which is a great way to stay fit while at work. Anyway sorry for the shameless plug, but its not everyday you see your little company in an article on the front page of WPCentral! Anthony
  • Awesome and thanks for the input, Anthony. I have your Elevate II Adjusta desk with maple wood. Outstanding quality and glad to see a US company doing well in this field!
  • Pretty cool, but still not quite going to dethrone the iPad yet from schools. The nice thing about the iPad is that the cart is able to manage liscences, update apps, and undo any 'customizations' that the kids manage to do during the day. I would much rather see devices like a Surface being used in schools, but iPads have much easier administration which saves schools a lot of money in the long run that they simply do not have to spend in the first place. Maybe with Windows 9 or a future version of winRT we will see better lock-down and system update features to make real computers feel more appliance like which would be much better in a school setting.
  • You can do that with Windows allready. Using fixed profiles, GPO's and/or a write filter. Profiles and GPO's is common knowledge of a sysadmin. So easy to deploy. A write filter is default thing of Windows Embedded. With the write filter nothing gets changed (like in fixed changed) unless you disable the write filter. A simple reboot or logoff will bring Windows back like it was before. So also without any customizations.
  • Amazing... good idea for enterprize... just WOW!
  • That's exciting! My school had Macs... Yuck!
  • I really hope this gets my kids high school to commit to Windows Tablets instead of the crappy chromebooks they make everyone use.  Googles office products are terrible for formatting documents.  I don't know how companies can use them.   James
  • I'm a high school English/Drama teacher. I was fortunate enough to be chosen to pilot a new text in my district. The text includes many integrated online resources including the text itself, so I was given a class set of Surface RT 32GB devices. We have 30 tablets with touch covers in the double door cabinet pictured in this article. It's a wonderful setup, but using Surfaces has had its frustrations. For example, many online resources are coded to work perfectly in Chrome, but they do not work equally well in IE. I contact tech support for whatever web application (gradebook, ebook reader, etc...) is giving me problems, and the standard answer I get is, "are you running this in Chrome?" When I explain I'm using Surface RT devices, the reply is, "I'm sorry; our site has been optimized to work with Chrome." Currently, our tablets are set up with a single student local account login, which has been a frustrating limitation: no onedrive or access to the apps store. I don't quite understand how the devices will be set up next year. Can an RT tablet be set up for multiple user accounts within our school's domain the same way the desktops are set up?
  • They needed to make it so you didn't have to make the charger connection yourself.
  • And when Surface, along with every other 8", 10", 12" tablet gets wireless charging, these carts will be easier to build and more adaptable to changing times. See how easy that was. All we need now is a damn "standard".