Needless to say but COVID-19 pandemic has brought about a wave of changes that almost all businesses and industries across the world have had to deal with. Be it resorting to mass remote working, managing sudden financial slumps caused due to the pandemic, reimagining new strategies and business models, or just the overall uncertainty around financial future, companies have had to juggle many balls at once in the past few months.
Even tech titans of the world – Facebook, Amazon, Apple, Microsoft, and Google, with strong financial backups have felt the disruptive effects of the pandemic.
COVID-19 Pandemic Impact On The Big Tech
Facebook and Google have faced adverse effects on their advertising revenue as there was an overall reduced spending on ads by brands. Google reported its weakest revenue growth in almost five years in the first quarter of 2020 as the pandemic shrunk its ad sales.
Apple, which relies on Chinese manufacturers for iPhone productions also suffered an estimated 8% drop in global iPhone sales in Q1 2020. Similarly, Amazon’s India operations were hit the hardest during the pandemic as it had to halt delivery of all the non-essential items amid the country-wide lockdown imposed by the government.
But, despite these challenges, the big tech, also rose to the occasion, and contributed heavily to successfully fight the battle against COVID-19 pandemic. From taking measures to combat misinformation around Coronavirus, donating millions amid pandemic to taking strong safety precautions for its employees, and investing in new technological innovations (contact tracing), the big tech has emerged as a strong pillar of support in the war against the pandemic.
Now, as the post-pandemic world has started to come into focus, the big tech has already begun to gear up for the coming challenges of the post-Covid-19 world.
Increased Adoption Of Remote Working
This pandemic has brought along a slew of lessons for all of us. And out of all these lessons, the biggest one has been that almost all companies can make remote working easily possible without fearing over employees’ productivity taking a slump. Now, remote working isn’t a new model for companies and many of them already have existing policies around work from home, but mass remote working where a majority of employees work from home is something that the pandemic forced upon companies.
And although many were skeptical about this shift to a newer model, it seems that a majority of companies are now looking to move towards it permanently. Especially tech titans who were some of the first ones to send their employees home for remote work, are now also the ones banking on it for the future.
Take Twitter, for example, which has allowed its employees to work from home permanently, even after the entire pandemic lockdown is over. The main reasons here for Twitter being that it wants to focus on “decentralization” and enforcing a “distributed workforce” that can work from anywhere in the world.
Similarly, Facebook announced that it will allow most of its employees to work from home permanently even though there would likely be a dip in the salaries as employees move to more affordable locations. Amazon is also on the same boat and recently extended its work from home policy, where its employees can now work from home till at least October.
Microsoft workers can keep working from home through October and only specific job workers would be called to the office. And Google plans to remote work for the entirety of 2020. Employees who’ll be asked to return to office will do so starting June or July.
Taking a step back from an office-centric culture, and moving towards remote working in the future seems to top the list for the big tech in the post-Covid-19 world, especially, as most have found it to be just as productive, more flexible, cost-saving and safer for employees.
More Investment In Automation And AI
One of the technologies that’s being used rampantly during the coronavirus pandemic is Artificial Intelligence (AI). Facebook has been using AI for content moderation on its platform to prevent misinformation and hateful speech as it couldn’t rely on its third-party moderators to access sensitive data when working from home. Similarly, Amazon AWS customers are applying artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning expertise to better understand the COVID-19 pandemic.
AWS also teamed up with C3.ai, a leading artificial intelligence software provider, to accelerate research efforts and fight the spread of COVID‑19. Google launched a ‘Rapid Response Virtual Agents’ program to help businesses quickly build a customized Contact Center AI virtual agent that responds to customer questions via chat for 24/7 support. And Microsoft recently laid off its editorial team to replace them with AI.
And it appears that AI is also going to dominate the post-Covid-19 world. Take, for instance, Amazon, who is already in talks to acquire US self-driving car company Zoox. The deal would value at less than $3.2 billion valuation Zoox received in its funding round in 2018 and would expand Amazon’s move into robotics and automation. Given that social distancing measures and strong safety precautions are going to be the new normal post-covid-19, this move could allow Amazon to automate the delivery of its parcels without heavily relying on human delivery partners to do so.
Big data and AI have also been playing a big role in contact tracing apps that identify people who may have come in contact with an infected person and which then collects further data about them. Google and Apple joined forces for their new API and Bluetooth Low Energy technology called “Contact Tracing” and since contact tracing will also play an important role in the post covid-19 world, it might see more investment from the tech giants.
Apple has also been testing to automate product assembly in partnership with Foxconn. Now, although they found out that robots were not able to handle the delicate parts of the iPhone assembly, we might certainly see more automation attempts by Apple in the future. Also, as more companies shift to remote working, there’s going to be a higher dependency on AI to offer common IT and cybersecurity check ups without any on-site technical support.
The fourth revolution is already here and is replacing the tasks that were once considered the preserve of humans. The post-pandemic world is going to propel this even more to tackle the coming challenges head-on. That being said, heavy reliance on AI and automation will also call for pressing need to strongly abide by ethics of AI to mitigate its negative impact.
Summing it up, we are more likely to see the adoption of remote working and AI by big tech in the post Covid-19 world. There’ll be bigger investments made in new innovative technologies, increased cybersecurity efforts, and change in business models, among others, to better deal with the coming challenges.