It's official: All Microsoft conferences will be digital-only through July 2021. pic.twitter.com/wTBb7Z6pQB— Ginny Caughey (@gcaughey) April 6, 2020
Many companies have been forced to online-only events in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, but Microsoft is the first to set out concrete plans beyond the immediate future. It's further evidence of the company being extremely proactive in its response to the pandemic.
Assuming Microsoft Build continues to take place in May, it will mean the company's biggest event will be held virtually for two consecutive years. As a developer conference, it may even make sense for Microsoft to continue with a digital-only Build once the COVID-19 threat is a distant memory.
Where that makes less sense is for hardware events. Microsoft is thought to be unveiling new Surface products this Spring (potentially the Surface Book 3 and Surface Go 2), while the already-announced Duo and Neo are scheduled to arrive before the end of the year. While these launches are still expected to go ahead, losing the buzz of an in-person event may have an adverse effect on the excitement surrounding the new devices.
The global economic downturn will undoubtedly also hit sales, but Microsoft has already recognised that in its Q3 guidance.
Microsoft's presence at Computex 2020 (rescheduled to September) and CES 2021 (January) will also be affected by the news. The planning for digital events will likely include an increased reliance on Teams, the company's collaboration software that is booming in popularity as a result of so many people having to work from home.