MWC cancellations snowball as show implements strict coronavirus precautions

At least four more major participants pulled out of MWC 2020 over the weekend, while restrictions on visitors from China have been tightened.

Amazon, Nvidia, Sony and Viavi have now all confirmed they’ve decided the risk of coronavirus infection is too great for them to allow their formal presence to go ahead. Here are their statements.

Amazon: “Due to the outbreak and continued concerns about novel coronavirus, Amazon will withdraw from exhibiting and participating in Mobile World Congress 2020, scheduled for Feb. 24-27 in Barcelona, Spain.”

Nvidia: “We’ve informed GSMA, the organizers of MWC Barcelona, that we won’t be sending our employees to this year’s event. Given public health risks around the coronavirus, ensuring the safety of our colleagues, partners and customers is our highest concern.

“MWC Barcelona is one of the world’s most important technology conferences. We’ve been looking forward to sharing our work in AI, 5G and vRAN with the industry. We regret not attending, but believe this is the right decision. We’re grateful for GSMA’s leadership and continued efforts to ensure the safety of all attendees.”

Sony: “Sony has been closely monitoring the evolving situation following the novel coronavirus outbreak, which was declared a global emergency by the World Health Organization on January 30th, 2020. As we place the utmost importance on the safety and wellbeing of our customers, partners, media and employees, we have taken the difficult decision to withdraw from exhibiting and participating at MWC 2020 in Barcelona, Spain.

“The Sony press conference will now instead take place at the scheduled time of 8:30am (CET) on February 24, 2020 as a video via our official Xperia YouTube channel to share our exciting product news. https://www.youtube.com/user/sonyxperia. Sony would like to thank everyone for their understanding and ongoing support during these challenging times.”

Viavi: “After reviewing all available data, VIAVI has chosen to cancel participation in this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona out of an abundance of caution and concern for our employees, customers and partners.”

There are, of course, rumours of other cancellations, but none confirmed at time of writing. Cnet reports that Samsung is still exhibiting, but is acting to protect just its senior execs, which isn’t a great look if it’s true. We asked Samsung for comment and were told that, while there is no official statement, the company is still attending.

Meanwhile the organisers of MWC 2020, the GSMA, issued another update over the weekend, affirming once more that the event is still going ahead, but announcing a raft of new precautions and restrictions designed to mitigate the risk of coronavirus infection to exhibitors and attendees.

  • All travellers from the Hubei province will not be permitted access to the event (MWC Barcelona, Four Years From Now (4YFN), xside and YoMo)
  • All travellers who have been in China will need to demonstrate proof they have been outside of China 14 days prior to the event (passport stamp, health certificate)
  • Temperature screening will be implemented
  • Attendees will need to self-certify they have not been in contact with anyone infected.

While it’s totally understandable that the GSMA will do everything in its power to make the show as safe as possible, it’s hard to se how some of those measures will be enforceable. What does ‘self-certify’ even mean? Also this advice was issued yesterday, 15 days before the official start of the event. So, essentially, if you haven’t left China for the event already, don’t bother.

The whole event feels like it’s balancing on a knife-edge, with just one more negative development potentially enough to tip the balance towards outright cancellation. We understand many companies are following Ericsson’s lead and conducting formal risk assessments, the results of which are probably already being analysed. The smart money was on Nokia pulling out after the Ericsson decision, but we’ve heard nothing from them yet. The biggest exhibitor, however, is Chinese firm Huawei, and the fate of MWC could lie in their hands.

Sony puts smartphones on the back burner as it doubles down on music

Japanese technology and media conglomerate Sony has announced its latest cunning plan and it involved focusing on content and content creators.

At the same time Sony announced it is acquiring 60% of EMI Music Publishing from Mubadala for $2.85 billion, which means it now owns 90% of EMI and, when combined with its own music publishing business, makes Sony the world’s biggest music publisher.

“The music business has enjoyed a resurgence over the past couple of years, driven largely by the rise of paid subscription-based streaming services,” said Sony CEO Kenichiro Yoshida. “In the entertainment space, we are focusing on building a strong IP portfolio, and I believe this acquisition will be a particularly significant milestone for our long-term growth.”

Sony’s new strategy focuses on investing in content and content creation, while making sure the hardware business doesn’t go down the toilet. This is an extension of the Kando philosophy Sony has been banging on about for a few years now – a Japanese word that seems to mean the excitement you get when you encounter something exceptional.

It’s all about getting closer to people, apparently, and appealing to their emotional side. This seems to be a desire to restore the Sony brand to its former highs, perhaps last experienced in the 1980s through products such as the Walkman. This would be difficult to achieve through just hardware as Apple has that crown and seems unlikely to relinquish it anytime soon, so Sony is focusing on providing people with content and helping them create their own.

So you can effectively divide Sony into three main silos now: content IP (video, music, games), branded hardware (smartphones, consumer electronics) and consumer enablers (CMOS sensors and financial services). The emphasis is on investing in the content side and keeping the CE cash cow stable, which probably means continued managed decline for the smartphone segment. You can see how this all plays out in the Sony slides below.

Sony KANDO

Sony business segments

 

Sony strategy 1

 

Sony strategy 2

 

Sony strategy 3

 

Sony investment areas