BUILD 2020: Microsoft’s biggest developer event will be digital-only this year

Microsoft's biggest annual developer event is going digital-only as concerns about the spread of COVID-19 continue.

Similar to events like Google I/O and Facebook F8, Microsoft will stream its major announcements and cancel the physical part of this year's BUILD conference.

In a statement, Microsoft wrote:

"We will deliver our annual Microsoft Build event for developers as a digital event, in lieu of an in-person event.

We look forward to bringing together our ecosystem of developers in this new virtual format to learn, connect and code together."

Earlier this week, Microsoft subsidiary GitHub announced that it was cancelling its Satellite conference. Developer said at the time we anticipate Microsoft itself would be following suit with its own conference in the coming days (I don't think we'll be winning any awards for that prediction.)

The novel COVID-19 coronavirus has spread around the world rapidly and the World Health Organisation officially declared it a pandemic earlier this week. Several governments have now increased their response, including a US shutdown on all flights from Europe except the UK and Ireland. Italy has issued a complete lockdown across the country and it's expected other many other countries around Europe and beyond may do the same.

While the fatality rate is currently low, there are concerns that the rate of infections could overwhelm healthcare services. Here in the UK, the government says it aims to delay the virus into the summer when the NHS is generally under less strain and those who need the service can access it.

More digital-only events?

Events have been increasingly switching to digital and often have much higher numbers of viewers online, so it will be interesting to see whether some decide to continue holding online conferences moving forward given the benefits such as:

  • Less expense – Conference halls cost a lot to hire, along with all the staff, catering, and equipment required.

  • Reduced travel – Travelling to events, sometimes internationally, causes a large carbon footprint and is expensive both in terms of transport and accommodation.

  • Accessibility – Financially, and sometimes in terms of mobility, more people are able to attend an online event.

  • Virus outbreaks – Sure this doesn’t need explaining unless you’ve been living in a cave.

Technologies such as 5G are also making recording and viewing easier than ever. While a bit further down the line yet, VR opens up a new world of opportunities when it comes to interacting with digital events.

While it's likely traditional industries that are slower to embrace change will stick with physical events, the tech industry – which should be at the cutting-edge – the inevitable transition to digital-only may have been sped-up by the virus.

ConsenSys, which develops applications and services for the Ethereum blockchain, announced today that it’s postponing its Ethereal New York conference to later in the year. However, here’s the interesting part from its announcement: “We’ve already gone to work reimagining Ethereal NY as the first-ever Ethereal Virtual Summit 2020.”

Hands-on workshops will remain in-person for some time, but I'd wager at least one of the major tech giants will remain digital-only next year. That might be a slightly more impressive prediction than our last.

Interested in hearing industry leaders discuss subjects like this and sharing their use-cases? Attend the co-located 5G ExpoIoT Tech Expo, Blockchain Expo, AI & Big Data Expo, and Cyber Security & Cloud Expo World Series with upcoming events in Silicon Valley, London, and Amsterdam.

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