Konica Minolta wants to get in on the 'workforce collaboration' act

We attend Konica Minolta’s Spotlight event in Berlin

The ‘workplace of the future’ is an area that many tech companies are desperate get in on early. What exactly this will look like has been the subject of a lot of varied speculation but the general assumption is that tomorrow’s companies will be even more geared up to people working anywhere and the remaining office space will recognise the individual and be highly personalised. This could include desk spaces which automatically update to an employee’s temperature preferences and networks which instantly log them into required systems.

This is the highly lucrative world of IoT and AI all and printing company, Konica Minolta, has its sites firmly set on it. Last year this saw the company announce a fund of $460 million for new acquisitions while yesterday it revealed its latest product at a Spotlight event in Berlin.

The new Workplace Hub – in conjunction with HPE, Microsoft and Sophos amongst others – aims to provide a single centralised platform to manage IT infrastructure and services and is due for release in the Autumn. The company claims this will allow customers to future-proof their IT for tomorrow’s workplace.

In a lot of ways, Konica Minolta is a confusing company. It arose from a 2003 merger between two iconic Japanese imaging firms – Konica and Minolta – and in the interim has gradually divested its famous camera business and come to occupy a similar space to Xerox and Ricoh.

The picture is muddied further by a number of different CEOs and presidents – who cover different geographical territories – and a few different business units. These consist of ‘business technology’, which makes up over 80% of its sales and mostly covers printing and printing services, ‘industrial business’ (stuff like film and lenses) and ‘healthcare business’ (which includes things like x-ray imaging systems and jaundice metres).

If any area typifies the old guard of companies anxious to move forward and pinpoint new business models it is printing. In recent years Xerox has moved heavily into BPO and is desperately trying to bring its research facilities back to the glory days of the 1970s. Ricoh is focused on business services and has made a lot of noise recently about an IoT partnerships with IBM Watson. With revenue for FYI 2015 standing at US$8.59 billion, Konica Minolta is some considerable way behind both Xerox and Ricoh.

The company believes this new platform will prove a differentiator in the space. “This will separate us from traditional vendors,” says Rick Taylor, president and CEO of Konica Minolta Business Solutions US.

Taylor tells me that “significant” upfront investment went into this – he doesn’t have the exact sum – and although this means it won’t monetise instantly “it will add to our financials very quickly.”

Indy Nakagawa, president of Business Solutions for EMEA reiterates that “nobody is a competitor in the market”. He adds this new product is not analogous with typical print services and the only potential competitor would be HPE which is a partner.  

With the product not yet released it is a little hard to get past the bombast or beautiful videos to really understand what this offers that is new. The big message, however, is that that it readies the company and its clients for the future of work. Only time will tell if this is the case but there does seem a certain level of irony here when one criticism levelled against the company on Glassdoor this month is “no work from home policy”.


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