It was the week when the cell phone trade’s largest annual commerce present was known as off over fears concerning the unfold of the coronavirus.
On the Tech Tent podcast this week, we take a look at the fallout from the cancellation of Cell World Congress – and ask whether or not social media has performed a optimistic or unfavorable function in serving to individuals perceive the risk posed by the virus.
- Take heed to the newest Tech Tent podcast on BBC Sounds
- Pay attention stay each Friday at 15:00 GMT on the BBC World Service
We have been in California this week – the podcast was recorded from the studios of KQED in San Francisco – and we have watched because the tech trade right here has tried to familiarize yourself with the risk posed by the coronavirus.
Initially of the week, whereas main gamers like Ericsson and LG had pulled out of MWC, the overall temper appeared to be that the present would go forward.
We took a visit throughout the Bay Bridge to Berkeley in quest of some experience.
Concern spreads sooner than an infection
There we discovered Dr Lee Riley, professor of infectious ailments and vaccinology on the College of California – a person who has spent his profession finding out epidemics, together with a spell on the World Well being Group.
He was surprisingly sanguine concerning the coronavirus, stating that common-or-garden influenza was much more lethal, although he stated he understood that uncertainty concerning the nature of the illness was sure to make individuals fearful.
However he stated a 24/7 information tradition and the rise of social media made that concern unfold sooner than the virus itself – particularly because the coronavirus was being identified much more quickly than Sars was 20 years in the past.
“They do the analysis, after which we hear concerning the information of the analysis straight away all through the world instantaneously. They’re consistently getting updates on this… and I feel that feeds into a few of the anxiousness that folks have.”
Social media was giving individuals partial data, however not all of the details, and that magnified their considerations.
He appeared shocked once we informed him there was discuss of cancelling Cell World Congress. He stated that will be an “over-reaction”. Even when individuals have been attending the present from China, he stated, “we’ve got new methods to diagnose a majority of these infections in a short time and precisely in order that should not be a priority.”
Feeling the warmth at Samsung
The next day, the cellular trade’s market chief Samsung was launching its newest units in San Francisco.
On our approach into the occasion – which, like MWC, had attracted guests from world wide – we needed to stroll previous a temperature sensor to display screen us for fever, a symptom of the coronavirus.
Inside, there have been plentiful provides of face masks and hand sanitiser.
Then we acquired to see a spectacular present the place the flagship Galaxy S20, now with 5G throughout all its variations, was unveiled.
Having been underneath strain from China’s Huawei, which appeared to be main the best way on digicam innovation, Samsung confirmed off a mixed optical and digital 100x zoom which allowed the cellphone to select the Palace of Fantastic Arts the place the occasion was happening from a vantage level miles away, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge.
The star of the present, nonetheless, was Samsung’s second folding cellphone the Galaxy Z Flip, a smaller and much more elegant gadget than final 12 months’s Galaxy Fold, though the $1,380 (£1,058) price ticket appears a bit steep simply to have the ability to slip it into your denims pocket.
This was the second time Samsung had held its main occasion of the 12 months earlier than Cell World Congress, beforehand the launch pad for its new Galaxy telephones.
Disappointment and disinformation
That transfer seemed even smarter the following day, when the information got here by means of that MWC had been cancelled. That leaves its largest Android rival Huawei with no venue to indicate off its newest units – it had been planning to make a giant splash in Barcelona.
The main analyst Carolina Milanesi of Artistic Methods, who is predicated in Silicon Valley, informed us she was upset to be lacking the present – a possibility to get a worldwide perspective on the trade.
- Cellphone showcase cancelled over coronavirus fears
- Cellphone present cancellation a ‘nightmare’ for corporations
She made the purpose that lots of the motion takes place behind the scenes, with senior executives assembly and making offers. However the influence on the trade of cancelling the present was as nothing in comparison with the broader harm the virus might trigger.
“It’s nowhere close to the influence that the coronavirus might even have from a producing perspective, from delaying merchandise to lack of availability of merchandise which can be already available in the market at this time,” she stated.
In the meantime, a World Well being Group official has been visiting the Silicon Valley tech giants this week to specific considerations over the unfold of misinformation concerning the coronavirus on social media.
Standing exterior Google’s Mountain View headquarters, Andrew Pattison had this warning: “The unfold of misinformation, and false details about the virus itself is unfold sooner than the virus, and it is acquired into extra individuals’s lives and contaminated extra individuals than the precise virus itself.”
Examples embrace individuals falsely claiming that consuming garlic or taking vitamin C might push back the illness, or altering credible web sites similar to that of the Canadian Well being Ministry to insert false details about faculties which had been affected by the coronavirus.
However Mr Pattinson stated there had been helpful conversations with the tech corporations, and Google had acted to take away misinformation from search outcomes concerning the virus and change it with content material from dependable organisations such because the WHO.
What is obvious is that the coronavirus goes to have a serious influence on many know-how corporations this 12 months. Some shall be attempting to work out the right way to hold fragile provide chains intact as parts from China grow to be sparse.
For others – notably the social media giants – the risk is of harm to their reputations if they’re seen because the purveyors of panic and the channels for misinformation.