Sunday, March 26, 2023

A year of technological events without technological events

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Captive audience at Huawei’s drive-through event.

Engadget / Mat Smith

Electric cars (luckily no smoke in that enclosed space), crept quietly into the warehouse as their passengers tested the phone’s video zoom and editing tools as well as noise-canceling headphones that the company was also launching at this time. After Blade Runner’s razzle-dazzle, cars circled a small pedestal and I was held hostage for a sterile slide show touting market share growth. It killed the mood after all of the neon show.

I returned the Mate 40 Pro demo, which got wiped both ways, and the luxury car drove me home. I spoke to four people in total, including the driver, who remained socially distant throughout. Even the car had apparently been professionally cleaned before they picked me up.

It was an unprecedented year for major technology launches. As the coronavirus halted mass gatherings, major events have either been called off or rearranged for this era of the pandemic.

In the Big Tech calendar of events, the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona was the first to feel the effects of this year’s pandemic. Usually held in mid-February, MWC is the first phone event of the year. In the weeks leading up to COVID-19 had become a global concern. But no one was changing their plans – I was always ready to go two weeks before MWC kicked off. Then LG withdrew. Samsung has “cut back” on its plans. Amazon and Sony both pulled out days later.

The GSMA, which hosts the annual show, has held firm despite the withdrawal of a growing number of companies. Then, 10 days before the MWC opened, it was canceled. “With due regard to the safe and healthy environment in Barcelona and the host country today, the GSMA has canceled MWC Barcelona 2020 because of global concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, travel issues and other circumstances, prevent the GSMA from organizing the event., “the GSMA said in a report.

Many journalists and analysts had long since canceled their trips. For a few upcoming devices, members of the press and industry insiders had already been pre-briefed in their home towns. Other companies, like Sony, have chosen to launch their new phones via a live streaming on YouTube.

An image of the showroom at CES showing a large


Tech events like MWC, IFA, and CES carry additional risks during a pandemic. Not only do thousands of people from all over the world gather in crowded conference rooms, but there are also the new gadgets on display for everyone to touch and play with. How many people, exactly, have pushed and pushed that touchscreen interface on Samsung’s new smart refrigerator? How many hands have dipped into those giant bowls and trays filled with free trade lounge loot and, quivering, appetizers? You can imagine the glowing microbes and their spread in a hectic trade show.

The cancellation of MWC was just the beginning. Facebook F8, Google I / O, SXSW, and GDC have been canceled entirely or downgraded to online events only. As for E3, the biggest gaming event of the year, it was already going to be an unusual year, as Sony and Microsoft were planning their own milestone events around their next-gen consoles. Eventually, they were also canceled.

The result of the E3 cancellation was numerous individual feeds and announcements from game publishers. Ubisoft has released its Assassins Creed: Valhalla reveal on multiple video feeds and press releases including a very cool digital art sketch that unfolded in front of the spectators. Other huge games this year, like Cyberpunk 2077 and The Last of Us Part II, were teased with a mix of gameplay videos and overdue announcements, as COVID-19 pushed back release dates on all gaming platforms. The effect was a quieter broadcast of gaming news .

Apple’s major press events and its World Developer Conference (WWDC) arguably exert even more influence in the tech world. Even for us non-developers, the WWDC keynote is where Apple presents major software updates, including new versions of iOS, macOS, watchOS, and tvOS. This year was no exception.

This year Apple had to turn its typical live event into a pre-recorded movie, and the opening keynote was arguably better for it. There was no screaming or cheering from the live audience (no thanks, I’m British), and the pre-recorded material performed at a good clip, even particularly dense sections on the chip Apple’s new generation PC.

Apple followed WWDC with several fall events, including an iPhone event and the launch of the Apple-made M1 silicon, starting with a series of new ARM-based Macs. The keynotes all took on a format similar to WWDC 2020: a pre-recorded video hosted by senior Apple executives.

You may have noticed that our hands-on stories and impressions, usually done in a separate demo area next to Apple’s amphitheater, didn’t appear on our site until a few days later An army of journalists, bloggers, Videographers and analysts bending over to touch a smartphone is ideal for spreading a virus, so that wasn’t going to happen. Weeks after the announcement, Apple held a tightly controlled hands-on meeting for people to test out devices like the iPhone 12 series, with plenty of space, lots of hand sanitizer, and a no-handshake policy. .

The effects of COVID-19 have also meant that Apple’s annual event on the iPhone took place in October, not September, as is usually the case.

A new type of practice

For people like me covering these tech events, briefings on new product announcements meant disjointed Zoom calls hundreds, if not thousands of miles away. The strange event behind the wheel of Huawei was more of a statement of intent than a realistic event strategy. Some companies, in the run-up to canceled conferences like MWC and IFA, have even sent devices like laptops, phones, and headphones to reporters so they can poke, push, and test for a few hours before quitting. ‘a courier does not come and pick them up and deliver them. them to another tech reporter.

While Apple’s press events seemed a little simpler (and perhaps a little less fun), companies like OnePlus have been playing around with AR. Fans could check out the company’s latest phone, the OnePlus North, using augmented reality to project the new device into the ether. They could even add their own avatar to virtually attend the launch event. It was a little complicated – you needed a dedicated app to make everything work and it didn’t even add much – but at least it was different. The app has since been deleted, but you can see what it looked like here. Of course, I will never forget the strange press event behind the wheel of Huawei. I’ll probably forget the Mate 40 Pro, however.

What will 2021 hold for major technological events? So far, pretty much the same. CES 2021 will be online only, while MWC 2021 has already been pushed back to early summer. A “rethought“E3 is still scheduled for June, but there are few details on what could be done to dull the crowds. Once COVID-19 vaccines are commonplace, things can change, but they are unlikely to change quickly. Companies will need to figure out how to present their products in the most direct or engaging way possible.


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