The big picture: Microsoft is planning to take the majority of its events for fiscal year 2021 (which runs from July 2020 through June 2021) digital, ZDNet’s well-connected Mary Jo Foley reports. It's just an experimental phase right now but there's an increasingly good chance that traditional tech conferences as we know them could become extinct.
A spokesperson for the Redmond-based tech giant told the publication that in light of the challenges presented by Covid-19, they are adjusting their event calendar and strategy. For the rest of 2020, the spokesperson added, Microsoft will be experimenting with digital-first experiences.
This means that Microsoft’s Ignite conference in 2020 will not be an in-person event. Last month, the company eliminated the in-person aspect of its annual Build conference, vowing the event would carry on as a digital-only experience. That's still slated to take place from May 19 - 21.
When asked specifically about events in the 2021 timeframe, the spokesperson told Foley that Microsoft will continue to evaluate the event landscape “but that is what we have to share at this time.”
In mid-February when reporting on the cancellation of Mobile World Congress, I wrote that one possible outcome of this whole ordeal is that “event organizers and attendees realize that a trade show like this isn’t necessary and that would be very unfortunate.”
It’s still far too early to know for certain but if a major player like Microsoft is already shifting its strategy this far out, it’s at least plausible that the traditional tech conference as we know it could be little more than a distant memory. That could ultimately translate to less hands-on time with new gadgets and products by tech journalists and fewer opportunities to share findings with readers.