Mar 4, 2020 - Technology

Coronavirus drives more tech industry events to be postponed or canceled

Intel, Mashable and TikTok are the latest to pull out of SXSW. Photo: Amy E. Price/FilmMagic

It's looking like most big tech events will be postponed or canceled for the coming couple months, creating new work patterns for an industry that thrives on gatherings.

Between the lines: In-person events carry long-term value as attendees share ideas and build deeper relationships. In the short term, though, workers may find that less travel for events helps them focus and be more productive.

Driving the news: Among the latest round of cancellations and pullouts:

  • Google scrapped the in-person version of its I/O developer conference, saying it would come up with some sort of digital replacement.
  • Lesbians Who Tech postponed its San Francisco Summit until August.
  • Intel, Mashable and TikTok joined Facebook and Twitter in pulling out of SXSW, but organizers continue to insist the Austin gathering — due to start March 13 — will go on.
  • A number of tech firms, including Amazon, Intel, Cisco and Salesforce, pulled out of HIMSS, the big medical tech trade show slated for next week in Orlando. (Amazon also confirmed that a worker at its South Lake Union campus in Seattle has tested positive for COVID-19.)

Meanwhile: Google and Microsoft both said they are offering free versions of workplace communications software to help businesses deal with travel limits.

  • Google CEO Sundar Pichai said the company is providing its G Suite customers with free access to its Hangouts Meet video conferencing tool, through July 1.
  • Microsoft is globally extending an offer of a free six-month trial for the business version of its Teams collaboration software. It had previously made it available in China. "By making Teams available to all for free for six months, we hope that we can support public health and safety by making remote work even easier," a Microsoft representative told Axios.
  • Constellation Research has a timely series of webinars on how tech companies can deal with a coronavirus-altered landscape, as well as a long (and growing) list of the tech events canceled so far.

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