The rapid and global outbreak of the COVID-19 coronavirus has affected countless people and various industries. As of this writing, there have been more than 179,000 global cases in nearly every continent and about 7,500 people have been killed by this virus, mostly in China where the infection originated. The repercussions of a global outbreak of this magnitude leads to loss of human lives, just as scientists and governments race to create and test a viable cure, which could take months.
Coronavirus has also rocked major US stock market indexes, taking billions of dollars off the value of key tech giants like Apple and Microsoft. More importantly, coronavirus, which originated from China, the world’s manufacturing hub, exposed just how dependent technology companies are on China. All the major consumer electronics vendors have adjusted their earnings to reflect how reduced manufacturing will affect their profits as well as their product launches.
Major technology events and conferences, which see tens of thousands of attendees from all over the world, have similarly been halted. The first one to be affected was Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain. This is the premiere smartphone show in the world and attracts 100,000 attendees from 200 countries. Traditionally a launching ground for new models and technologies, MWC is the biggest tech event next to CES in early January, which just barely escaped the coronavirus.
Are tech events even necessary?
Technology conferences, with thousands of visitors traveling from all over the world, are potential hotbeds for virus transmission, so it makes sense to avoid these events. For attendees and sponsors, this means losing money on travel, accommodation, and event costs, which cannot be refunded. For the host countries and cities, this means a loss of revenue from visitors and tourists. Tech companies now must stage their own launch events to show off new products. If you’re a Samsung or a Microsoft, this isn’t a big deal since you already have your own launch events. But for smaller up-and-coming technology companies and component makers, missing out on larger events can be devastating.
Mobile World Congress’ cancellation was followed by Game Developers Conference (GDP) and Facebook’s F8 conference, and things aren’t looking great for events like Google I/O, Microsoft Build, and Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.
The coronavirus outbreak will inevitably call into question whether these large technology shows are even necessary. Granted, they offer a platform and a place for vendors and customers as well as the media to dive into upcoming products and technologies. But is having hundreds of thousands of people flocking into one place a good idea? The industry and its biggest players will have to grapple with this to find new ways to market and promote their new technology products and solutions.
Tech to the rescue
On the flipside, technology has given us alternatives to real in-person meetings and provides us various options to continue working in isolation. Video conferencing solutions like Zoom, Google Hangouts, and Skype make it possible to hold virtual meetings without running the risk of contagion. Using messaging tools like Slack, Microsoft Teams, and Messenger makes it possible to continue collaborating even when we need to work remotely. If we’re to learn anything from this pandemic, it could be the notion that many types of jobs can be done effectively remotely using various technology tools to keep workers collaborating and connected.
More importantly, technology, through the internet and mobile connectivity, helps keep the world updated on the number of cases as well as the spread of coronavirus. This is all important data that can be studied and analyzed to hopefully help formulate a cure.