Some strategies are rising to the occasion, others are set to require a rethink post-pandemic.
As opposed to many other industries, the world of tech has handled the COVID-19 challenge relatively well. But that doesn’t mean we can pretend that nothing has happened—or that trends haven’t accelerated or been disrupted by the crisis.
Experts widely agree that it’s too early to know whether shifts in usage and IT tactics will remain permanent, yet while some corners of the computing business have clearly seen a boost, others have fallen in use or even been called into question.
Here are some of the winners and losers in tech in the age of the coronavirus:
- Winner: Video conferencing
Demand for video conferencing tools has skyrocketed in recent months as meetings, classroom sessions, and even social gatherings have moved online. Contrary to perception, however, it’s not only a handful of major platforms, such as Zoom, that are benefitting from the shift. A variety of satellite projects with specialized apps and extensions for industries such as education and finance are also thriving.
- Loser: Office management tools
As long as people are working from home, there will be much less demand for enterprise packages and hardware products to control access to or track usage of office tools such as copiers. Tools built around detecting the physical presence of employees won’t be a priority at least until workforces return to the office.
- Winner: Collaboration software
Office tools that enable people to work collaboratively on documents or presentations are also seeing rising demand. Online whiteboards and collaboration tools that facilitate working at a distance are greatly needed. Much like with videoconferencing, there are also ancillary markets for tools that may also benefit from the surge in home office environments, with Zoho, Salesforce, Google, and Microsoft all working on new products.
- Loser: Corporate hardware
Computers aren’t going to disappear, and many companies will need to continue to provide them to their employees. But the heavy desktops and huge monitors that clutter up offices are going to be much less popular—and they very well might be rethought even when they return.
- Winner: Social control
Say goodbye to the quaint vision of the internet as a haven for freedom of expression. Tech companies are increasingly experimenting with shaping the information we see on our devices. In the past this has generally been done subtly, via shadow banning, but amid the current obsession with fake news they’re now actively deleting controversial words, apps, videos, and more.
- Loser: Privacy
The long-held concept of personal privacy is quickly disappearing. In a bid to crack down on the spread of the coronavirus, major phone companies are developing tools that track who meets whom during the day in case one person gets sick. The issue of tech privacy has always come down to a debate between corporate responsibility and individual rights. Now that the stakes are higher during a pandemic, the balance is rapidly shifting away from the individual.
- Winner: Cocooning software
Streaming platforms and digital media have obviously been a godsend during the pandemic. Generally, subscription services that offer unlimited access to any of these have done well in lockdown. Furthermore, with major production companies shut down, old movies and old TV shows are also in great demand, so it’s not just Netflix and Disney who are winning here. There are also dozens of support companies that are thriving in their corner of the software ecosystem.
- Loser: Software for gathering and traveling
Specialized software offerings that support in-person gatherings are suffering. Companies that build software for theatrical lighting or sound systems, for instance, aren’t going to be selling many new packages so long as people aren’t attending rock concerts or theater offerings. Many such businesses are going to need to wait for the world to feel okay with gathering in person, and for their clients to have the necessary resources to invest.
- Winner: Cloud
The cloud has delivered when society needed it most, and enterprises are accelerating and ramping up their adoption of cloud technology. The way the cloud expanded to absorb the demand from video conferencing and collaboration software is a true testament to the vision that built this incredibly flexible pool of computational resources.
- Loser: On-prem
When your employees are working from home, there’s less of a distinction between the cloud’s data center across the country and your company’s server room back at the office. Landlords don’t rent buildings that are 100 percent corner-office space for a reason. Many companies stick lightweight server rooms in the windowless storage space. This shift could revolutionize the way we think about office space.
- Winner: Agile
Put simply, those enterprises with the ability to think and adapt quickly. This may seem obvious and is undoubtedly part of a longer-term trend in business. But while you may still need to build huge charts and aim for delivery dates for two or three years in the future, you’ll need to think quickly and adjust in minutes. Those enterprises that do will thrive.
- Loser: Modeling and past data
Two of the biggest buzzwords in tech in recent years have been “artificial intelligence” and “machine learning.” Thanks to the lockdown, everyone putting these technologies to work is faced with a data modeling challenge. We can’t use the data from third quarter 2019 or 2018 to predict the third quarter of 2020 because so many things have changed. No one knows what the post-COVID future will bring, but the odds are that it really will be different to what we’ve seen.