Samsung cancels 2020 developer conference as pandemic continues raging


Samsung has held a developer conference every year since 2013, but it will skip 2020 because of the coronavirus.

James Martin/CNET

Samsung’s developer conference will take a break this year, as the novel coronavirus pandemic makes it impossible to gather thousands of people in one place. 

The company said on its developer website that it has canceled its 2020 Samsung Developer Conference and that it’s “disappointed that we will not be hosting the event this year and getting the chance to interact directly with you.”

Samsung opted not to move its developer conference online, like how Apple handled WWDC virtually in June. Samsung itself is hosting its third digital product event since early August, with its “Unpacked for Every Fan.” While most of Apple’s employees are based in Northern California, Samsung’s R&D centers are spread across the globe, making a virtual event difficult to coordinate. 

“To protect the health and safety of the developer community, our partners, our employees and local communities, we have made the difficult decision to not hold the Samsung Developer Conference this year,” Samsung said in a statement. “We remain committed to keeping our developer community informed of our latest platform updates, and will continue to share important news and useful resources through our developer website and community forums.”

The novel coronavirus, which has infected more than 31 million people around the globe, has caused companies to rethink their events. GSMA canceled Mobile World Congress, the world’s biggest mobile show, a week before journalists were due to arrive in Barcelona in late February. Instead of holding in-person product launches, Apple, Samsung, Huawei and OnePlus have all held digital events or introduced devices via press release. In late June, Apple hosted a virtual developers conference rather than gathering thousands of app makers in California, while companies like Google and Facebook opted to scrap their developer conferences this year. IFA proceeded with some in-person elements earlier this month, but CES in January will be all digital

Samsung held its first developer conference in 2013 in San Francisco. At the time, it was looking for a way to set its Android devices apart from those made by its rivals. It pushed its own Tizen software, urged developers to make apps and features exclusively for Samsung devices, and showed off the breadth of its portfolio, from its wearables to its smart appliances. 

While the early years of SDC were heavily developer focused, small events — the biggest news often was SDKs to add features to apps — the company later used its developer conference to unveil new products. And it moved its conference from a hotel in San Francisco to a convention center that could accommodate thousands of attendees. At SDC in 2018, Samsung gave the first glimpse of its foldable phone, which would later be sold as the Galaxy Fold. Last year, Samsung teased the Galaxy Z Flip, its second foldable, which resembles a flip phone. 

For many developers, SDC was the only time they could meet with the Korea-based engineers behind Samsung’s newest gadgets and software. It also became a place for a wide variety of Samsung executives to make their pitch for using and developing for the company’s products. 

Samsung plans to continue sharing information with developers through its website and forums, rather than hosting its formal event.

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