In a little less than two weeks, Review Geek would attend the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. It is one of the highlights of the year in the field of technical shows, a showcase for all phones that appear in the summer. But from Monday we are not going, because there are no major players such as LG, Amazon, Sony and NVIDIA.
Health Scares at MWC
Other companies with a reduced presence at MWC, such as canceled press conferences or stands, including TCL, Ericsson and ZTE. That is the list from Monday afternoon and it will probably be longer. If you have not heard it yet, this is due to health problems from the Wuhan corona virus. Such things usually fall outside our area of news reporting, but in this case it will affect technical hardware at least in the short term.
The trade association that organizes the Mobile World Congress, the GSMA, takes extra precautions for participants. Participants from Hubai Province (where the outbreak began) are not allowed on the show, travelers who have recently been to China must prove that they have been outside of China (and without symptoms) for at least two weeks and there will be additional temperature tests are carried out.
Between legitimate fears of a virulent disease and the incredibly dense human movement of a huge conference (last year there were more than 1
But attendance issues at the Mobile World Congress are just the tip of the iceberg. Coronavirus may also cause global problems with the production of products.
Major problem in not-so-small factories
The corona virus is a serious humanitarian crisis and we do not want to make it trivial. People are sick and people die. That's bad, and it's much more important than everything we normally talk about in Review Geek.
But it is worth pointing out that its impact is already being felt far beyond the medical and travel fields. With the vast majority of the production capacity of most technology in mainland China, a disease that disrupts daily life on the streets of Shenzhen will disrupt business up and down in the technology industry and many others.
The production centers of mainland China are incredibly large campuses, with some of them keeping thousands of employees in and out of multiple shifts every day. Like a busy convention center, they are a terrible place to be in the middle of an outbreak.
Factories in China remain closed for extra time after the usual New Year parties. Foxconn, which produces Apple iPhones, along with many other customers in the technical industry, is opening this week with a limited capacity. Employees returning from hard-hit areas are confronted with a two-week quarantine and health check after their vacation. Nintendo is already warning retailers that the corona virus will cause unavoidable production delays for the Switch game console and accessories.
You can expect similar problems in many of the factories in China. And with no immediate end in sight for the spread of the corona virus worldwide, things are likely to get worse before they get better.
The problem is more complicated than it appears at first sight. Of course, the phones, tablets, game consoles and computers that are now being created can be delayed. But in addition to finished electronics, the Chinese factories also supply business-to-business components, both to each other and to the part of the world of technological production outside of China.
Hubs in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and India, while not currently facing downtime or personnel shortages, are faced with supply chain problems that can immediately delay their output. Of course it's not just consumer technology: cars, textiles, hardware, simple plastics and other household items, industrial equipment, even raw materials such as steel and organic chemicals, all run the risk of being delayed or otherwise hindered if Chinese workers stay at home because of their health .
Factory workers in Jiangxi make printed circuit boards in an assembly line. Humphery / Shutterstock.com
With the super-tight margins and planning of modern production, even a few weeks of delayed production in China will cause major problems in producing almost everything on a large scale. And the longer the problem persists, the more dramatic the effects will be on both the business and consumer levels.
So, at least in the summer, expect a lower than usual stock for technical hardware, and many other things. For example, telephone manufacturers should finalize their fall releases, with spring and summer testing, and the first production starts around July and August. With the severely affected production centers, the first prototypes will already be delayed.
What is not affected?
But what about the other technical issues you use? What is not affected by a likely blow to China's production power? The simple answer is "most things that are not actually manufactured."
The big one here is software. Updates for Windows, macOS, iOS and Android should go on more or less uninterrupted, since development centers in the US and Europe are not affected. (Yet). The same goes for video games (at least downloaded versions), because China's enormous development scene focuses primarily on the domestic market. Technology services, such as varied items such as Netflix, Dropbox, Fitbit, etc., must continue to work.
But everything that has to do with hardware will get a hit. Be prepared for the delays and shortages and try to be patient. I like to assume that everyone does their best in a scary and frustrating situation.