How the Coronavirus Has Disrupted Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Other Big Tech Companies

As the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread globally, some of the biggest tech companies in the world are taking steps to protect workers and limit potential exposure.

With conferences canceled, factory schedules disrupted and workers urged to work from home, the coronavirus has quickly left its mark on an industry that typically runs like clockwork with an annual calendar of investor-friendly projections, product releases and large glossy stage shows.

At the time of writing, COVID-19, a disease caused by the new form of virus, has been linked to more than 3,100 deaths, 91,000 infections globally, and is rising daily.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says the illness easily spreads person-to-person and via contact with infected surfaces or objects. There is no known cure.

For prevention tactics, the CDC says online: "Community-based interventions such as school dismissals, event cancellations, social distancing, and creating employee plans to work remotely can help slow the spread of COVID-19. Individuals can practice everyday prevention measures like frequent hand washing, staying home when sick, and covering coughs and sneezes."

Broadly, the technology industry has been listening closely, with massive yearly conferences including Mobile World Congress (MWC) and the Geneva Motor Show already being scrapped.

Some firms warn that product output is likely to be impacted, while some tech employees have already tested positive for the virus. With the reach of COVID-19 growing by the day, the true impact will not be clear for some time. But for now, here's how the biggest tech companies have been hit so far.

Facebook

  • Pulled out of South by Southwest [SXSW] conference in Austin, TX.
  • Pulled out of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco.
  • Limited "social visitors" to all of its offices, only allowing business use.
  • Canceled the in-person component of F8 2020, its developer conference.
  • Temporarily halted orders for the Oculus Quest VR headset.
  • Taken steps to limit the spread of misinformation on the website.

Google

  • Temporarily closed all offices in mainland China, Hong Kong, Taiwan.
  • Restricted employee travel, including to Italy, Iran, Japan and South Korea.
  • Canceled Google News Initiative Summit that was scheduled for April.
  • Scrapped "major" internal conference in Las Vegas, per Bloomberg.
  • Taken precautionary measures after employee in Zurich was diagnosed.
  • Transformed Google Cloud Next '20 conference to digital-only event.
  • Told 8,000 Dublin staff to work from home as worker had flu-like symptoms.

Apple

  • Temporarily shuttered all stores inside mainland China.
  • Confirmed a "slower return to normal conditions" than anticipated.
  • Said it does "not expect to meet the revenue guidance" provided for March quarter.
  • Confirmed worldwide iPhone supply would be "temporarily constrained."
  • Said manufacturing partner sites in China impacted, would impact revenue.
  • Confirmed China stores operating at reduced hours with "very low" traffic.

Twitter

  • Launched new search prompt to push "credible, authoritative information."
  • Suspended all non-critical business travel and events.
  • Encouraged all employees globally to work from home if able.
  • Made working from home "mandatory" in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea.
  • Said mandatory home work due "in part to government restrictions."

Amazon

  • Placed restrictions on employee travel to and from mainland China.
  • Announced one million items purged for price gouging, per Wired/Reuters.
  • Confirmed two employees tested positive for COVID-19 in Milan, Italy.
  • Warned customers of Prime Now and Amazon Fresh delivery delays.

Coinbase

  • Urged "employees that are likely to get sick more easily" to work from home.
  • Confirmed business travel restricted to essential only.
  • Said it strongly encouraged staffers to minimize personal travel.
  • Travel to China, Hong Kong, Japan, Italy and South Korea totally restricted.

Uber

  • Urged drivers to stay at home if they feel sick.
  • Shared guidance about washing hands, covering coughs and sneezes.
  • Asked drivers to "clean and disinfect" vehicles/surfaces.
  • Said passenger trips can be avoided or canceled for "safety reasons."
  • But stressed drivers cannot discriminate based on race or national origin.

Microsoft

  • Restricted all nonessential travel to China, per guidance from the CDC.
  • Canceled MVP Summit event, changed to virtual format.
  • Confirmed PC division will be "more negatively impacted than previously anticipated."
  • Said financial hit would be felt in third quarter of fiscal year 2020.
  • Co-founder and former CEO Bill Gates described COVID-19 as possible "once-in-a-century pathogen."

It is very clear from the ever-growing list that the full impact of COVID-19—which shows little sign of slowing—will be hugely felt by tech firms, but will also come with a real human cost. You can stay up-to-date with the latest coronavirus health advice via the CDC and World Health Organization (WHO).

Woman wearing a protective face mask
A woman wearing a protective face mask uses her mobile phone while walking on an overpass in Shanghai on February 25, 2020. NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty
How the Coronavirus Has Disrupted Apple, Amazon, Google, Facebook, Microsoft and Other Big Tech Companies | Tech & Science