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Facebook cancels developer conference over coronavirus fears

Facebook cancels developer conference over coronavirus fears

Instead of the F8 event, the company will organise "a combo of locally hosted events, videos and live streamed content."

Credit: REUTERS/Stephen Lam

Facebook has said it will cancel its annual developer conference due to fears over the coronavirus, as growing concerns about the economic impact of the global outbreak drove Wall Street to tumble for a sixth straight day.

Facebook's F8 conference, which attracted 5,000 people from around the world last year, was scheduled to be held May 5 and 6 in San Jose, California.

Microsoft on Thursday said it still plans to hold its own developer conference in Seattle later in May but withdrew from a gaming conference scheduled for next month in San Francisco, joining a host of multinationals in calling off corporate events and grounding employees from travel as a result of the outbreak.

Konstantinos Papamiltiadis, Facebook's director of platform partnerships, said that instead of the F8 event the company would organise "a combo of locally hosted events, videos and live streamed content."

A Facebook spokesman told Reuters the company has imposed temporary restrictions on business travel for its employees to mainland China, South Korea and Italy, where a significant number of cases have been reported.

Facebook said earlier this month that it was expecting the outbreak to have some impact on production of its Oculus virtual reality headsets, which are produced in China.

Microsoft likewise plans to hold a digital-only event from March 16-18 in place of the Game Developers Conference. Facebook earlier pulled out of the gaming conference and called off its 4,000-participant global marketing conference, also a San Francisco-based event.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Wednesday reported a coronavirus case of unknown origin in northern California, where some of the world's biggest tech companies are based. It is potentially the first incident of the virus spreading within U.S. communities.

California Governor Gavin Newsom said on Thursday that the state is monitoring more than 8,400 people for coronavirus symptoms after arrival on commercial flights, but California lacks test kits and is being held back by federal testing rules.

Exhibitor exodus

The South by Southwest Music and tech festival, set to be held in Austin, Texas, in March, said in a statement that it has seen "a handful" of cancellations related to the virus, but the event will proceed as planned.

Earlier this month, The Mobile World Congress (MWC), the annual telecoms industry gathering in Barcelona, was called off after a mass exodus by exhibitors due to fears over the coronavirus.

AT&T Inc, Verizon Communications Inc and International Business Machines Corp earlier withdrew from the RSA cyber security conference, taking place this week in San Francisco, citing coronavirus concerns.

Job search engine Indeed, which is based in Austin but has offices worldwide, told Reuters on Thursday that it had restricted some international travel, temporarily closed some offices and recommended some people work from home as part of its response to the coronavirus.

"While for the most part it remains business as usual, we're continually evaluating the crisis and adjusting tactics based on evolving information to keep our workforce safe," an Indeed spokeswoman said.

Alphabet Inc's Google said its developer conference is still planned for May 12 to 14 and it is monitoring coronavirus developments.

Microsoft plans to hold its annual developer conference, Build, in downtown Seattle from May 19-21, but said in a statement that the "safety of our employees is a top priority and we will evaluate the situation and adjust plans as necessary."

Microsoft on Wednesday said it was unlikely to meet its fiscal third-quarter guidance for its Windows and Surface hardware business unit because of hits to the electronics supply chain, echoing similar statements from Apple Inc and HP.

Apple typically holds its developer conference in June, but has not yet made any announcements about dates or the venue. It did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The company last week said it would miss revenue targets for the quarter ending in March because of the virus, but Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook sounded an optimistic note on Thursday.

"It feels to me that China is getting the coronavirus under control," Cook said in an excerpt of an interview released by Fox Business Network Thursday, adding that iPhone components come from the United States as well as China.

Cook told the network that iPhone factories in China have re-opened and are in "phase three of the ramp mode" of returning to normal operations.

Chipmaker Intel Corp said this week that it is banning business-related to travel to or through mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Singapore, South Korea, Japan and Italy.

The company also said it is requiring workers returning from those countries to avoid working in its facilities for two weeks after they return, and asked workers who experience coronavirus-like symptoms to seek medical attention and not return to its facilities until they are well.

(Reporting by Amal S and Ayanti Bera in Bengaluru, Katie Paul, Stephen Nellis and Paresh Dave in San Francisco; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Leslie Adler)

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