Virtual reality: Now even the online Google Cloud Next event is postponed

No, this is not business as usual as the C-virus continues to wreak havoc

A couple of weeks ago Google cancelled its in-person Cloud Next event, saying it would become "Google Cloud Next '20: Digital Connect." Now even the virtual version has been postponed, with no rescheduled date given.

Cloud Next 2020 was on many industry folks' agenda, with Google and Alphabet CEO Sundar Pichai slated to present, alongside Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian. It was set to run from 6 to 8 April in San Francisco.

At the start of this month, on March 2, attendees were told by the Chocolate Factory that, in line with best practice during the COVID-19 pandemic, the gathering was going to become a virtual affair, consisting of "streamed keynotes, breakout sessions, interactive learning and digital 'ask an expert' sessions".

However, Alphabet has changed its mind, saying last night that even a digital alternative will not be possible. The company said: "Google Cloud has decided to postpone Google Cloud Next '20: Digital Connect out of concern for the health and safety of our customers, partners, employees and local communities, and based on recent decisions made by the federal and local governments regarding the [novel] coronavirus (COVID-19)."

It added: "We are fully committed to bringing Google Cloud Next '20: Digital Connect to life, but will hold the event when the timing is right."

While we do not have any further detail about why Google has made this decision, it is worth noting there are many ways to hold virtual events. It was common in pre-COVID-19 days for tech companies to run virtual sessions between its staff and sometimes a select group of press or other invitees, and to use streaming and online Q&A management to extend this to a wider audience. Running an event like this requires staff and partner speakers to be there in person, which does not work if they are trying to isolate.

The alternative is a pure virtual event in which even the presenters can work separately, but doing this to the standards expected of something like Google Cloud Next introduces its own set of challenges.

It is also possible that Google is rethinking its approach somewhat in these strange and unpredictable times. The disruption from the pandemic is profound and new ways of working may become the norm, with some tech trends being accelerated and others held back. One prediction seems safe: the role of cloud computing will not diminish. ®

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