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Mobile World Congress canning sends shockwaves

The cancellation of Mobile World Congress forces industry to rethink strategies, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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With more than 100,000 attendees originally expected at MWC Barcelona, the cancellation will be a major blow for airlines across Europe, and the hospitality and tourism industry in Barcelona. Almost all hotels in the city are fully booked during the event, taxis are permanently busy, and most restaurants are full at night. Now, Barcelona may well resemble a ghost town, as the regular tourist trade would have been turned away by the lack of flights and accommodation – and it is both inappropriate and too late to market the city as a destination for that week.

For major brands who have to rethink launch strategies, marketing budgets will be strained, and launch campaigns could be set back by weeks or even months. This will put further constraints on a mobile industry already reeling from the impact of the coronavirus on manufacturing in China. Supply chains, shipping, and other logistics are also in disarray. Now add marketing to the list of casualties.

There is one big winner from the cancellation of MWC: Samsung, which launched its new range of mobile devices at a stand-alone event in San Francisco on Tuesday (link here). Samsung decoupled its annual Galaxy Unpacked event from MWC two years ago, after running it on the eve of MWC in Barcelona every year since the launch of the Galaxy S2 in 2011. The Galaxy S9 in 2018 was the last flagship Samsung phone to be launched at MWC.

A key reason for the decoupling, giving Samsung blanket coverage on launch day and pre-empting announcements by rivals, suddenly looks like a stroke of genius. The likes of Huawei, Sony, LG, Xiaomi, Nokia, Vivo, Oppo and OnePlus now all have to rely on online or delayed events for the launches planned this month. Apple never exhibits at industry expos, and keeps its iPhone launches to September, when it can unveil new devices in time for the holiday market.

Samsung does not have it all its own way, however. Its fiercest rival, aside from Apple, is Huawei, which also does not launch its flagship phones at MWC. While it was expected to launch the sequel to its Mate X foldable phone, that is not the device that will drive its market share.

Rather, Huawei is counting on the new P40 range to re-establish it as a technology leader, following Google pulling the plug on Android being included in the manufacturer’s devices. The launch is expected to take place at a stand-alone event in Paris in late March. Huawei was expected to showcase its own operating system, Horizon OS, during MWC, but will now probably do so in local events and combine it with the launch of the P40. It is also likely to include the new foldable device in that event.

The 6-week gap between the Samsung and Huawei flagship launches will also probably give the latter the chance to tweak the specs on its phones to be more competitive with the S20 range, which has pushed the boundaries of video and zoom technology.

Not that it’s all good news for Samsung. Despite moving Galaxy Unpacked from Barcelona, it still used MWC to launch its new tablet ranges. It will have to rethink that roll-out and marketing strategy.

Even for those who are unscathed in the immediate aftermath, the cancellation is bad news: it highlights the vulnerability of the industry as a whole to geopolitical events, and reduces the appeal of the sector to investors. If the coronavirus is not contained in the coming months, a mobile industry that is already relatively stagnant will experience a sharp decline.

  • Arthur Goldstuck is founder of World Wide Worx and editor-in-chief of Gadget.co.za. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram on @art2gee
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TikTok takes on COVID-19

The fastest growing social media platform in the world has also become an epicenter of public education about the coronavirus, attracting more than 30-billion views, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

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The young have been getting a bad rap for wanting to party on while COVID-19 sends the world into lockdown. But a different movie is playing itself out on the social platform that is growing fastest among teenagers: TikTok.

Awareness campaigns by TikTok itself, collaboration with the International Red Cross, and spontaneous videos made by TikTok creators have combined into a barrage of information, education, awareness and social consciousness around the coronavirus.

Both globally and in South Africa, TikTok’s COVID-19 campaigns have gone viral.

The local #HayiCorona challenge, designed to remind people not to touch their face and wash hands regularly, has passed 1.5-million views. The TikTok collaboration with the International Red Cross, the #WashingHands challenge, has passed 12.6-million views.

One of the best-known participants in these challenges is the past year’s icon of South African talent, the Ndlovu Youth Choir, took up the global challenge with a 20-second hand-washing video. It put together a performance that brings tremendous energy to what can be a clichéd message, and ends with a punt for the Department of Health’s WhatsApp information service. The video can be viewed below.

@ndlovuyouthchoir

Our community has limited access to running water. Follow these instructions on how to safely wash your hands using a bucket. ##coronavirus##washinghands

♬ original sound – ndlovuyouthchoir

“On a global scale, TikTok also partnered with the World Health Organization (WHO) to ensure that, while creators are still having fun and expressing themselves on the platform, they stay informed with COVID-19 information coming from a reliable source,” a TikTok spokesperson told us. “Through the partnership, the WHO has created an informational page on TikTok that offers information to curb the spread of the coronavirus as well as dispelling myths.”

The page can be viewed at https://vm.tiktok.com/GHTEGf

TikTok has hosted a number of livestreams with WHO experts, attracting users from more than 70 countries, tuning in for live question and answer sessions. It has also introduced labels on coronavirus-related videos, to point users to trusted information. Resources are also offered directly in the app and in a dedicated COVID-19 section of TikTok’s Safety Center, at https://www.tiktok.com/safety/resources/covid-19.

If users simply want to explore videos on the topic, they can search via the #coronavirus hashtag, or click on https://vm.tiktok.com/swKbn4. The hashtag has had an astonishing 33.8-billion views, indicating the scale of activity and interest around the topic on the platform.

Read more on the next page about how South Africans have embraced the campaign.

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On World Backup Day: backup, backup, backup

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It was World Backup Day yesterday, 31 March, at a time when business continuity is threatened as never before. That makes calls for protecting email and defending against ransomware all the more urgent.

The global coronavirus pandemic has brought into stark relief many organisations’ lack of business continuity plans and policies. With more than two billion people around the globe in forced lockdown in wide-ranging government efforts to stem the tide of infections, an unprecedented number of employees are working remotely.

This interruption to the normal way of work is precisely what an effective and resilient business continuity strategy should plan for, says Heino Gevers, cybersecurity specialist at Mimecast

“Companies need uninterrupted access to critical business applications during times of disruption, including safe and secure web and email access for workers that are now operating outside the normal perimeters of the organisation,” he says. “In addition, comprehensive backup and archiving solutions should be ready to restore access to critical business applications should there be any unplanned downtime to ensure continuity until the crisis passes.”

According to Gevers, the current global crisis is likely to push business continuity up the list of priorities for many organisations that have been disrupted by the effects of the coronavirus.

“Organisations are facing new challenges to their productivity; for example in terms of technical support. If a remote user is infected with malware or ransomware, how does the IT team restore that device or do any remediation without being able to physically access it?”

Gevers advises that organisations implement tools that enhances the data protection capabilities of commonly-used tools such as Office365 and can leverage archived data to provide quick recovery of email data in the event of accidental loss, malicious attacks or technical failure. 

“As adoption of cloud-based business applications grow in the wake of forced lockdowns around the globe, companies need to ensure they have the tools to recover in any situation,” he says. “This includes a data management strategy that combines archiving, backup and data protection capabilities to allow for quick restoration of critical systems and applications in the event of disruption.”

Jasmit Sagoo, head of technology at Veritas for the United Kingdom and Ireland, warns that this is a golden age for cybercriminals looking for ransomware opportunities.

“As the global cost of ransomware continues to grow, this World Backup Day, Veritas is saying: ‘don’t pay up, back up!’,” he says. “Ransomware is said to generate an estimated annual revenue of $1 billion a year, and companies who are not consistent in backing up their data are allowing criminals to line their pockets.

“Ransomware attacks exist only because some businesses can’t survive unless the hackers give them back their data.  So, the key to survival is removing that reliance and being able to regain access to data, without engaging with the cybercriminals.  The best way to do that is with a sound backup strategy.

“Sagoo advises organisations to create isolated, offline backup copies of their data to keep it out of reach of any attackers.  They then need to proactively monitor and restrict backup credentials, while running backups frequently to shrink the risk of potential data loss. Businesses should also test and retest their ransomware defences regularly.

“Ransomware strikes without warning and it doesn’t discriminate between its targets – it can happen to any organisation, large or small. Despite their best efforts, most companies will fall to at least one attack. What distinguishes one victim from another is the ability to bounce back, which ultimately depends on its backup strategy.

“When ransomware hits, organisations that aren’t prepared often feel helpless to do anything other than to submit to their attacker’s demands.   That’s why we’re urging all businesses to use World Backup Day as a catalyst to get ahead of the situation and get their data protected.”

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