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Microsoft moves Build developer conference online as coronavirus spreads

The event, usually held in Seattle near its Washington headquarters, was planned for May.

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Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, speaking at a previous Build conference.
CNET
For the most up-to-date news and information about the coronavirus pandemic, visit the WHO and CDC websites.

One of Microsoft's biggest events of the year will be held online, following concerns about the novel coronavirus outbreak that's been labeled a pandemic by the World Health Organization.

Microsoft said it made the choice to move the event online following health and safety recommendations from Washington's state government. "We look forward to bringing together our ecosystem of developers in this new virtual format to learn, connect and code together," the company said in a statement to CNET sister site ZDNet.

This year's Build is scheduled for May 19-21.

Microsoft is just the latest in a string of companies shifting and canceling events amid concerns about the coronavirus. Other companies like the internet giants Facebook and Google have canceled their respective developer events, which were planned for the spring. Apple meanwhile pushed its annual June developer conference, WWDC, online. Large organizations as well have scuttled their plans, including the annual SXSW music and tech festival in Texas, the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco and the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. Even Disneyland has closed.

Microsoft typically uses its Build developer conference to show off new features for its Windows software, which powers nearly 80% of the computers around the world. In 2017, for example, the company showed off new software to connect a smartphone powered by Google's Android software with a PC, allowing people to make and receive phone calls, text messages and other information.

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Microsoft has also used Build to discuss initiatives, like its focus on helping the disabled community by building apps and devices that can assist them in their daily lives. One of those apps, for example, helps the blind see the world by using a phone's camera and processing power to describe whatever it's pointed at, whether that be money or a sign. And a device the company recently built uses computer smarts and small motorized weights to help people with Parkinson's disease more easily use their hands again.

CNET's global team will cover Build, as well as other conferences that have shifted online, just as we always do -- by providing real-time updates, commentary and analysis you can only get here.