Coronavirus, a large family of deadly viruses that typically attack the respiratory system, has wreaked havoc globally. The virus, called 2019-nCoV, has been confirmed in more than 25 countries since it was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December. It is life-threatening to such an extent that the World Health Organization has declared the crisis a global health emergency. People all over the world have been taking precautions, and it has affected all kinds of businesses, including the tech industry.
China is one of the most important cogs in the world of technology. It has the manpower and machinery that brands across the world rely on to manufacture products. Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus outbreak, is China’s seventh biggest city and a major motor manufacturing hub. Tech bigwigs like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, and Asus have already taken action, and analysts have also suggested that there might erupt a gap in the demand and supply of tech products.
According to the BBC, Google has temporarily closed its offices in China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Google has also stopped its staff travelling to China and Hong Kong, while those who work in the company offices in these countries have been advised to work from home for a minimum of two weeks. Google has four offices in mainland China.
Facebook, which has a division that sells Oculus virtual reality headsets in China, has also asked its employees to stop their travel to mainland China and work from home. The company said that it was acting ‘out of an abundance of caution’ to protect its employees. ‘We have taken steps to protect the health and safety of our employees,’ a spokesman was quoted as saying.
Microsoft and Amazon have also issued guidelines to protect their employees from the virus. ‘Out of an abundance of caution, we are restricting business travel to and from China until further notice and encouraging our employees to follow the health and safety guidelines provided by international health agencies,’ an Amazon spokesperson told the BBC.
TikTok parent company Bytedance and gaming giant Tencent have also told their staff to work from home. In fact, several companies have told their employees to work from home or extend their Lunar New Year holiday.
Additionally, analyst Ming-Chi Kuo has said that due to the outbreak of coronavirus, Apple may postpone the mass production schedules for new products to the second half of the year. He also lowered his iPhone shipment forecast by 10 per cent to 36 – 40 million units in the first quarter of 2020.
Asus India said that the ROG Phone II has received a tremendous response. However, the company has issued an open letter to those who have been waiting to purchase the phone. ‘Dear Fans, we know you've been excited to get your hands on the ROG Phone II. While we have had steady availability for long, due to the disruption in the supply chain caused by the prevailing situation in Asia, ROG Phone II will face a temporary shortage. Rest assured, we are working hard to ensure that your favourite gaming smartphone will be back in stock soon. We shall keep you updated,’ the company said in a statement.
Automakers like General Motors and Toyota have announced that it is extending its Lunar New Year holiday and manufacturing plant closures till February 9. French car making group PSA, which owns Peugeot and Citroen, and Japan's Honda and Nissan have announced that they would evacuate their staff and their families from China.
Update: Reuters has now reported that Foxconn could see a ‘big’ impact on the production and shipments of devices to its customers, including Apple, if the manufacturer's Chinese factory continues to remain shut as a result of coronavirus outbreak. Foxconn has halted ‘almost all’ of its production in China until at least February 10. Citing sources, the news agency reports that so far, Foxconn has seen a ‘fairly small impact’ because it has been utilising its factories in other countries like Vietnam, India, and Mexico to meet the demand.
What’s worrying is that if the factories in China remain shut beyond February 10, there could be a huge gap between demand and supply. ‘What we are worried about is delays for another week or even another month. The impact would be big. It definitely will have an impact on the Apple production line. The tricky question is whether we will be able to resume production (on February 10)...It's up to the instructions given by central and provincial governments,’ the source was quoted as saying.
Update 2: Fujifilm Holdings Corporation and its group companies have extended their sympathies to those infected by novel coronavirus. The company has announced that it will make a donation of equipment and supplies amounting approximately 7 million RMB (approx $1 million) for support to the novel coronavirus response in China. The relief package includes Fujifilm’s medical diagnostic systems and devices that support clinical examination for pneumonia and Fuji Xerox’s printers that can be used at medical sites. In addition, Fujifilm will continue to provide medical equipment installation and maintenance services in the country.
Update 3: LG Electronics has announced that it is withdrawing its participation in the wake of the novel coronavirus outbreak. The company said that it will be holding separate events in the near future to announce its 2020 mobile products. ‘With the safety of its employees, partners and customers foremost in mind, LG has decided to withdraw from exhibiting and participating in MWC 2020 later this month in Barcelona, Spain. This decision removes the risk of exposing hundreds of LG employees to international travel as the virus continues to spread across borders,’ the company said.
#ZTE will participate in #MWC20 Barcelona as planned, showcasing comprehensive #5G end-to-end solutions and a wide variety of 5G devices. ZTE's booth is in 3F30, Hall 3, FIRA GRAN VIA. pic.twitter.com/vB9S4IpyZP— ZTE Corporation (@ZTEPress) February 5, 2020
Chinese tech giant ZTE also issued a statement regarding its participation in this year's MWC. It says that the company will ensure that all employees from mainland China, including non-Chinese nationals, have no symptoms 2 weeks before departure and arrival in the MWC. ZTE also said that it will ensure that all the senior leaders of the company who are participating in high-level meetings are isolated in Europe for at least two weeks prior to MWC. During MWC, ZTE will also disinfect the exhibition stand and equipment on a daily basis.
Update 4: Amazon has joined LG, NVIDIA and Ericsson and became the latest technology giant to withdraw from MWC. Citing a spokesperson, TechCrunch reports 'due to the outbreak and continued concerns about novel coronavirus, Amazon will withdraw from exhibiting and participating in Mobile World Congress 2020, scheduled for February 24-27 in Barcelona, Spain.' Meanwhile, the event’s organizer, GSMA, says that it is going ahead in hosting MWC Barcelona. 'While the GSMA confirm some large exhibitors have decided not to come to the show this year with others still contemplating next steps, we remain more than 2,800 exhibitors strong,' GSMA said in a statement.
Update 5: Intel, Sony, Vivo and Amdocs have joined the others in skipping the MWC 2020 event in Barcelona, Spain. Vivo sent across a statement saying, 'vivo has been closely monitoring the Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia (NCP) outbreak and continuously evaluating planned activities. The health and safety of our employees and the public are our top priority. Based on the present situation, we have decided to withdraw from our debut at MWC 2020 and other related events later this month in Barcelona, Spain.'
'We will soon introduce the APEX 2020 concept phone which we had originally planned to showcase at MWC. We will share more updates in due course. We apologize for any inconvenience caused and would like to thank our partners, media friends and consumers for their understanding,' the Chinese company added.
Meanwhile, Intel spoke to Venturebeat and said, 'The safety and wellbeing of all our employees and partners is our top priority, and we have withdrawn from this year's Mobile World Congress out of an abundance of caution.'
Amdocs, a leading provider of software and services to communications and media companies, announced that it is prioritizing the health and safety of its employees, customers and partners, and will not attend the MWC 2020. 'In the face of the public health concern from the novel coronavirus, we are placing the highest priority on protecting the health of our employees, customers and partners. While we appreciate the precautionary measures put into place by the GSMA, we believe the safest option is not to attend MWC 2020 in Barcelona,' said Shuky Sheffer, President and Chief Executive Officer, Amdocs.