Huawei postpones developer conference amid coronavirus, in setback as it seeks to build app ecosystem

Huawei’s developer’s event last year attracted more than 5,000 people globally.

Huawei Technologies is the latest organization to scrap a major live event due to coronavirus fears after the Chinese tech giant announced it would postpone its annual developer conference and replace it with a webcast.

The Huawei Developer Conference 2020, a key part of its strategy to develop a new ecosystem of apps to make up for the loss of Google under a US trade ban, will be delayed until March 27-28, 2020 and presented live via webcast given the current restrictions in place to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

“We attach great importance to the health and safety of all guests attending the Huawei Developer Conference 2020,” the company said in a statement released on Tuesday.

The deadly coronavirus, which originated in Wuhan, China, has resulted in more than 2,000 deaths as of Wednesday. Live streaming of product launches and events has quickly emerged as an alternative approach for tech companies at a time when the coronavirus outbreak has temporarily ended prospects for large gatherings of people.

This year’s edition of MWC Barcelona, the world’s biggest mobile industry gathering, was canceled less than two weeks before its scheduled opening on February 24, after major exhibitors pulled out over concerns about the coronavirus health crisis.

Huawei’s developer’s event last year attracted more than 5,000 people globally and served as an important platform for the Chinese tech giant’s efforts to develop its own ecosystem to replace Google’s services, which were cut off when the company was put on a US trade blacklist last May.

At the 2019 developer conference, Huawei officially unveiled its self-made operating system Harmony, saying that migrating apps over from Android would be relatively easy but that it would prefer to continue using Google’s Android OS on its smartphones.

“Huawei’s Harmony OS is ready for smartphones anytime,” Richard Yu Chengdong, chief executive of Huawei’s consumer business group, told delegates at the start of the conference.

In September last year Huawei delayed sales of its newly launched Mate 30 smartphone in Europe, the company’s biggest market outside China, because the handsets had no access to Google apps and services under the US ban.

Instead, it chose to focus on selling the Mate 30 models to consumers in China and saw a subsequent boost in market share over other Chinese Android handset vendors in the world’s largest smartphone market.

Huawei’s budget sub-brand Honor is set to introduce its latest 9X Pro handset during a live-streamed event next Monday, Honor president George Zhao wrote in a Facebook post.

Chinese smartphone maker Xiaomi became the first among its peers to host an online-only flagship product launch last week. Other major brands including Oppo-spin off Realme and Xiaomi’s Blackshark have also gone online for new product launches.

This article first appeared in the South China Morning Post