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Konica Minolta has a new focus: The office of the future — No longer in the camera business, tech company hopes to link IT services through Workplace Hub

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Konica Minolta CEO and President Rick Taylor is proud of his office in Ramsey, but that's not where he does most of his work.

“I got three shelves of bobble heads and sports memorabilia, I got a great conference room — it’s awesome,” he said. “But my real office is in a piece of leather (upstairs). It’s got my iPhone, my iPad, my computer and a wireless access point.

“My office goes where I go; that’s the way business is being done.”

The mobility of Taylor’s office is emblematic of the shift Konica Minolta, which has its U.S. headquarters in Ramsey, has made from its traditional business to offering services for the modern workplace.

Still largely known for its camera division (which was sold to Sony in 2006), Konica Minolta has spent the past several years acquiring information technology companies and developing a unified service called Workplace Hub. The service is expected to launch by October, aiming to modernize offices.

Workplace Hub is referenced as a nebulous service that connects tools for working in the modern day. Company officials say businesses use telecommuting, global conferencing, third-party applications and robotics to various degrees, but there’s no software that harmonizes these moving parts efficiently.

That’s where Konica Minolta hopes to step in.

For example, many businesses have taken advantage of technologies such as Skype to conference with workers around the country or across the globe with relative ease. But coordinating a conference can be a combination of three separate services that don’t talk to one another. You receive a company email about a conference, so you mark it on your Google calendar and make the actual call on Microsoft’s Skype. How to streamline the process was one of the main questions for Workplace Hub.

“How do we get the customer to the next level, and how do we make their life more simplistic,” Vice President of Product Management and Planning Dino Pagliarello said.

In an office completely integrated with Workplace Hub, the service would have access to email data, integrate with third-party applications such as Skype and set up a conference call automatically.

The company hopes to slowly integrate its new service by packaging it with new iterations of its popular hardware. Konica Minolta officials say their multifunctional printers are a staple of any office space and new versions will include compatibility with Workplace Hub for easy office integration.

New technology is always impressive, but the question for many businesses is how necessary is it? And is it worth the investment?

“We’re trying to future-proof the platform,” Taylor said. “This is not a ‘buy it now and you’re obsolete the next day,’ this is a platform that can be added to as we develop new technology and as third parties do.”

The company showcased various new technologies on the horizon that are currently in the development phase, but could be expected to release within the next two years.

For example, the concept of each employee clocking into the same office every morning has slowly been phased out in favor of businesses that want their talent to move around or utilize the same office space for multiple people.

One of the technologies showcased was a desk space that adapted its settings depending on which person was sitting at it.

One employee might work evenings and have dimmer lights as well as higher security settings than one who works during the day. These examples provide a visual reference for how the same desk could be completely different for two different people, but more technical differences, such as which operating system is installed, what software an employee has access to or their security clearance, could also be customized per user.

As excited as Konica Minolta is about its services, executives understand some of the details can be exhaustive for anyone who isn’t tech-savvy. But the framing makes a difference.

“I’ve got a really nice title, so I talk to some smart people, but when I talk about our core business, their eyes glaze over because it’s been so commoditized,” Taylor said. “But if I talk about the workplace of the future and how work is being done, they light up and new people come into the room.”

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