Covid-19 contagion fears spark tech event cancellations, factory closures
Previously known as the novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) or the racially-charged “Wuhan virus”, the extremely contagious Covid-19 has wreaked havoc across its start point in the Chinese city of Wuhan and beyond. Nothing is spared – even the innocuous world of technology has been affected by its spread.
Held right at the start of January and escaping unscathed is CES 2020 Las Vegas, widely accepted to be the biggest event on the tech calendar. However, companies with supply chains embedded in China, and tech events slated for the first half of the year aren’t as lucky, with the battle against Covid-19 shaping up to be a long-drawn one.
1. Mobile World Congress 2020 – Barcelona, Spain
Planned to take place between 24-27 February this year, the Barcelona-hosted consumer tech staple has been unceremoniously annulled despite concerted precautions put in place by its organisers, the GSM Association (GSMA), in face of Covid-19.
Spain is relatively unaffected by the disease that is currently concentrated in East Asia, with two confirmed infections at time of publishing.
However, the GSMA had little choice but to call off this key smartphone event in light of withdrawals by cornerstone exhibitors LG, Nokia, Sony, Vivo and many other companies.
Key hardware announcements by manufacturers like Oppo, Xiaomi and Huawei planned in conjunction with MWC 2020 have been postponed indefinitely. On the other hand, companies like Sony will likely go ahead with launch plans at an alternate venue.
2. Facebook’s Global Marketing Summit – San Francisco, USA
Another one bit the dust when Facebook axed its Global Marketing Summit, which was to take place at the Moscone Centre in San Francisco from March 9-12. The event was planned for an international attendance of over 5,000 participants.
California, the US state where San Francisco is situated, currently has eight confirmed Covid-19 infections. Four cases in the tech-focussed region of Silicon Valley have been connected to travel to Hubei province in China or close contact with family members who travelled there.
3. Esports event cancellations
Esports events across the world have not been spared, either.
While some esports events have been cancelled or postponed, others have been relocated from China to alternate venues. The Overwatch League has relocated tournaments to Seoul.
4. Travel restrictions
It’s easy to underestimate how important in-person, international travel is for big corporations, but the January 2019 kerfuffle by United Airlines involving tech giants like Apple, Google and Facebook only served to highlight this little-known fact.
Wide-ranging travel restrictions and advisories involving international flights to China have contributed to apprehension over financial performance for tech companies reliant on Chinese collaboration.
In light of the coronavirus, Apple has reportedly stopped sending engineers to China to work on its upcoming iPhone 12. Google has also shuttered offices in Hong Kong and nearby Taiwan, while tech bigwigs like Facebook, Amazon, LG and Razer have officially restricted travel by employees into the country.
5. Store closures
As if travel restrictions binding the feet of its vital executives and decision-makers was bad enough, the Covid-19 crisis in China only serves to exacerbate sales forecasts of these companies.
A paltry five Apple Stores have reopened in China after widespread closures sparked by Covid-19. Samsung has also followed suit, while doing its part by donating RMB 30M to efforts to contain the novel coronavirus.
6. Factory closures and product delays
Taiwan-based Apple manufacturing partner Foxconn has been forced to put plans for a plant in Zhengzhou, China, on hold due to the novel coronavirus. Other plant closures might also cause delays to iPhone and AirPods production, with orders for the recently-launched AirPods Pro currently delayed for up to a month in some locales.
Asus’s gaming-oriented heavyweight ROG Phone II has also been delayed indefinitely due to “the disruption in supply chain caused by the prevailing situation in Asia”.
A wide range of other tech products have also been delayed as a result of supply chain restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 situation.
Tesla has also announced delays for some Model 3 sedan deliveries due to government-mandated plant closures, while Facebook has shut off new orders for its Oculus Quest VR headset with availability pushed from February to March.
Moreover, companies based in China like Huawei, Oppo, Vivo and Lenovo will encounter delays too, especially those with production facilities in Hubei.