Mobile World Congress (MWC) 2020 is gearing up to kick off in a couple of weeks, but with more exhibitors dropping out over corona virus concerns, it could end up being a ghost town.
LG and ZTE were the first companies to change their plans last week, with LG pulling out altogether and ZTE cancelling its press conference and making the decision to limit its presence at the show. Ericsson followed suit just a couple of days later, saying that "as the health and safety of employees and customers cannot be ensured," it wouldn't be attending. Instead, it'll stage local events called 'Ericsson Unboxed'.
And now, Sony, Amazon, and Nvidia are pulling out, because it's bloody stupid to go traipsing around the world right now unless absolutely necessary, and good on these tech companies to acknowledge that a business trip doesn't fall under that category. I'm sure it's not all fuelled by employee well-being, and it's as much about PR as it is about health concerns, but right now, it's not a good look to be barrelling ahead with plans to attend the event as more and more exhibitors drop out. Those that are left are going to be painted in a very negative light, because they'll be seen as not caring about their own employees and customers enough to have done the same.
In a statement to TechCrunch, Amazon said, "due to the outbreak and continued concerns about novel coronavirus, Amazon will withdraw from exhibiting and participating in Mobile World Congress 2020," while Sony issued the following statement:
"Sony has been closely monitoring the evolving situation following the novel coronavirus outbreak, which was declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization on January 30th, 2020.
"As we place the utmost importance on the safety and wellbeing of our customers, partners, media and employees, we have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from exhibiting and participating at MWC 2020 in Barcelona, Spain."
Instead, the company will be delivering its press conference on its official Xperia YouTube channel at 8:30am (CET) on February 24. Nvidia, a major sponsor of MWC, has also announced that it won't be attending:
"Given public health risks around the coronavirus, ensuring the safety of our colleagues, partners and customers is our highest concern.
"MWC Barcelona is one of the world’s most important technology conferences. We’ve been looking forward to sharing our work in AI, 5G and vRAN with the industry. We regret not attending, but believe this is the right decision."
Bloomberg reports that both BT Group and Nokia have said that they're monitoring the situation so I'd be surprised if today's news doesn't have a domino effect. No one wants to be the douche bag needlessly putting customers and employees at risk when even huge tech giants are dropping out citing those concerns.
MWC organisers, GSMA, released an update about MWC over the weekend, saying that it'll be rolling out additional measures to "reassure attendees and exhibitors that their health and safety are our paramount concern," but cancelling the show doesn't appear to be on the list. Instead, travellers from the Chinese Hubei province won't be permitted to access the event, as that's where the outbreak kicked off. Travellers who have visited China need to show evidence that they've been outside of the country for a period of 14 days, and attendees will also need to confirm they haven't been in contact with anyone infected.
There will also be temperature screenings so if you're feeling under the weather, you might as well skip it yourself at this rate, or risk getting turned away. The organisers have said that there will be an "increased cleaning and disinfection programme across all high-volume touchpoints," and will generally be sanitising and cleaning things with more frequency than usual.
Given that big events like this tend to be a hotbed for catching some scummy cold, flu, or virus at the best of times, we'll have to wait and see how effective these new measures are - if the event still goes ahead as planned. [BBC]