What’s Happenin’ – Konica Minolta’s Daring New Direction

It’s a shirt. It’s a sock. It’s a glove! It’s a hat! But it has other uses, yes, far beyond that. You can use it for carpets, for pillows, for sheets, for curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats! ~The Lorax (Dr. Seuss)

Last week I travelled to Berlin to see what may someday be looked upon as one of the biggest product announcements Konica Minolta has ever made. This was the first Konica Minolta global analyst/press event they’ve held as people from all over the world traveled to hear the big news.

The Workplace Hub. What is it? What does it do? How will it sell? When will it be available? What will it cost? Whoa, slow down there Mabel, we’ll get to most of that.

In collaboration with HP Enterprise (for the computer hardware) and Microsoft (for the OS) as well as others, Konica Minolta bills The Workplace Hub as the world’s most connected intelligent edge platform for the workplace of the future.

So what is it? It’s quite difficult to describe. I think the best analogy I heard was when Rick Taylor said to think of what Nest has done for integrating parts of your home into one system (monitor security, cameras, your thermostat, carbon monoxide detectors and, etc. – all in one app). The Workplace Hub aims to do just that, but for the office.

According to Konica Minolta, The Workplace Hub acts as a centralized hub that simplifies an organization’s IT, provides dashboards by connecting the customer’s IoT assets into one manageable dashboard. It also aids in collaboration, using Artificial Intelligence to learn about customers, their habits, their needs and more.

This is a bold new direction for the print OEM and KM already has serious interest from at least one Fortune 20 company that’s actively looking at this technology.

Konica Minolta brought a few dealers in to see the announcement. Reaction was mixed with seasoned dealers (older) providing me with “wait and see” attitudes compared to younger guys like Kevin Jackson, Advanced Business Equipment of Ashville NC who responded with “I wish they were here right now, I’d order one today.”

There are three varieties of The Workplace Hub. The first is a blade server that mounts into the customer’s server rack. The second is a standalone server (see above) and the last is a turnkey plug and play MFP with the server in the base. The MFP is the one piece that I don’t know they need. (MFP and server versions below)

Personally, I see customers leaning heavily towards the two server versions and I suspect KM was only able to sell this program by promising the Mother Ship that this product would sell more MFPs. We’ll see if it’s still here in 5 years. Again, maybe I just need to better understand why they need the MFP version. It truly was a lot to take in.

An issue with this product is there isn’t really anything like it. Some wanted to compare it to Sharepoint. It’s not the same. Sharepoint can be integrated into this. Some say it’s just a fancy server. It’s not. This leads me to the main issue of this product as it stands. It’s very confusing and hard to describe. It does a lot and it’s challenging to effectively tell people what it does, which in turn, will make it difficult to sell. A lot of very smart analysts were walking around that event saying “I’m not sure I understand it” <not me…other analysts 😉 >

Not to worry, KM has plenty of time to work on their messaging. This project has been in the works for 18 months and I estimate it cost hundreds of thousands in development costs, if not more (they wouldn’t say). I’m amazed they kept the lid on it so well, I generally find out about things.

This is a bold direction for Konica Minolta as they once again have taken aim at something far outside their comfort zone (see Managed Services, 3D printing, Label Printing, etc.). The Workplace Hub is aimed at SMB but I’m sure it will go wherever they can find a home. This won’t be something that’s sold through a copier rep; dealers and branches will need the right kind of person with specialized training. Any location that sells managed services will find this a great solution as it’s truly plug and play and will fit right into their portfolio.

According to Rick, “We will launch qualified dealers simultaneously to any direct launch we have (we have a chief executive that thinks most dealers have the capability that any branch has with two things; their desire and support.)” Another strength of KM’s in my opinion – they have total faith in their dealers and they give almost everything to them to sell, unlike most of the competition.

KM is well suited to roll this out through their All Covered MSP network in the US as they already offer managed services. Europe will try to emulate this strategy from what I can tell as The Workplace Hub will launch in pretty much every market globally.

Click here to view all event pics and videos

Pricing hasn’t been released and KM may be leaning towards a usage based model rather than seat based. Again, another detail they need to work out before autumn.

Konica Minolta understands that print is in its waning days, at least in the form we’ve traditionally known (and loved). Volume has been slowly declining and will continue to do so and while it won’t disappear completely, it may not be as lucrative in 5 or 10 years as it is now. KM is preparing itself and their dealers for the next life by expanding into peripheral markets and in this case, by creating an entirely new product category.

At a time when companies like Xerox, HP and others are shedding portions of their companies seen as distractions to their core, Konica Minolta is actively spreading their wings and moving into new areas. I love that they do stuff like this

The event itself was tiptop, as Konica Minolta spared no expense to bring people from everywhere and wow them with an incredibly classy venue and powerful announcement. This was a really special few days; I’m excited to see how they roll this out (coming this Fall).

Thanks for including me in this announcement!

~Andy Slawetsky

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