As of February 10th 2020, the Coronavirus has affected 37,558 individuals globally, and caused 812 deaths in China. According to the World Health Organization, the risk assessment for China is Very High, and High for the rest of the world.
With stores and offices shutting their doors, many people housebound, and travel limitations, it’s natural that the tech industry is feeling the effects of the virus.
In this week’s Product Perspectives, we’ll look at how the virus is affecting the tech industry, and give you the resources you need to stay updated.
Stores closing and supply chains disrupted
Apple has shut all of its stores in mainland China, which represents a significant portion of its customer base. Facebook and Twitter have cancelled all nonessential travel to China, which for Facebook may cause delays for some upcoming releases.
Google has also closed its offices in mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. Amazon does not have an office in Wuhan, but there are offices in Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, and Guangzhou which will remain open.
Other companies which have announced closures of their offices, stores, and factories include Samsung, Microsoft, and Tesla.
50 airlines have halted flights to and from mainland China, with some countries banning entry of non-citizens who travelled to China in the last 14 days.
Airbnb is allowing all guests and hosts in Wuhan or Hubei affected by coronavirus to cancel their reservations without any fees or penalties. Uber has also suspended its services in Mexico after users reportedly came into contact with infected drivers.
Launch delays and shortages
China is one of the world’s main hubs for mass production and design. As it goes into lockdown, its natural that some launches may be delayed
Apple’s factory in Zhengzhou is considered ‘iPhone city’ as it assembles the bulk of the world’s iPhones. Foxconn announced that the factory will be closed ‘pending government review’ which could possibly lead to a shortage of new devices.
Facebook will also experience delays in the launch for its latest Oculus Quest VR headset.
In a statement for Android Central the company announced that it was no longer taking orders for the device.
“Oculus Quest has been selling out in some regions due to high demand. That said, like other companies we’re expecting some additional impact to our hardware production due to the Coronavirus. We’re taking precautions to ensure the safety of our employees, manufacturing partners and customers, and are monitoring the situation closely. We are working to restore availability as soon as possible.”
Mobile World Congress
Amazon announced that it was pulling out of the Mobile World Congress, set to take place in Barcelona on February 24th. Samsung, LG, Ericsson, and Nvidia, also announced that they would not be joining the show.
While Spain has only been hit by 2 cases at this moment, the fear of the virus spreading is keeping attendees well away. MWC’s organizer, GSMA, is barring visitors from the Hubei region of China, and everyone who spent time in China will have to prove they returned more than 2 weeks before the date of the conference.
Social media is also a barrage of fake news, fear-mongering, and conspiracy theories. Bloomberg reports that “according to a recent MIT study, false news is 70% more likely to be retweeted than true stories, with truth traveling six times slower than falsehood.“
The challenge faced by social media giants to keep the problem contained cannot be underestimated. A misleading video on TikTok was viewed 2.4 million times before it was removed. Racism against people of Asian descent is also on the rise, and spreading online.
Some of the fake news comes from alarmists claiming that the real death toll is in the millions, while others share bogus cures. Everything from air purifiers to bleach drinking.
Facebook’s Head of Health, Kang-Xing Jan, said in a blog post that the company “will remove content with false claims of conspiracy theories that have been flagged by leading global health organizations and local health authorities that could cause harm to people who believe them.”
Facebook will also be exerting its fact-checking systems on Instagram to help stem the tide of misinformation. Google has also implemented a new feature. When users search for anything related to coronavirus, it will pull up a special notice from the World Health Organization.
YouTube will prioritize content from reliable sources and trusted users such as public health organizations and accredited news outlets.
You might also be interested in: How to Be an Ethical Product Manager
What Can Product Managers Do?
If you have not been personally affected by the virus, the two most important things to do are to exercise caution.
If China is a major market for you, you’ll need to adapt. If you often do business with companies in China, you’ll need to be patient.
This is also a time for sensitivity. Although it’s normal to think about how our companies and industries are affected, this crisis is a human one. At the end of the day, what the world needs from Product Managers is their empathy.
You might also be interested in: Crisis Case Studies: Real Product Managers Share Their Tactics