Coronavirus cancels IFA conference in Berlin this summer, sort of

The electronics trade show will proceed, but not in the same way it has in the past, organizers said in a vague series of tweets.

Shara Tibken Former managing editor
Shara Tibken was a managing editor at CNET News, overseeing a team covering tech policy, EU tech, mobile and the digital divide. She previously covered mobile as a senior reporter at CNET and also wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. Shara is a native Midwesterner who still prefers "pop" over "soda."
Shara Tibken
3 min read

IFA normally takes place in Berlin each year in late August/early September. 


IFA , the electronics show held each summer in Berlin, has become the latest event impacted by the novel coronavirus. The trade show won't be canceled, but it also won't proceed as it normally does, organizers said. 

The organizers on Tuesday tweeted that "IFA Berlin is set to go ahead in 2020, but with an innovative new concept." They didn't expand on the plans but said the show was "set for an innovative concept designed for unprecedented times."

"The organizers ... for several weeks now have been discussing a range of alternative concepts," IFA tweeted. "Planning is well advanced for a concept that will allow IFA to deliver on its core functions for our industry ... as a global showcase for technology innovation and an important meeting place for brands, manufacturers, retailers and media."

The group said it would share its updated plans later. IFA didn't immediately respond to a request for more information.

The move followed the German government's ban on all events with more than 5,000 participants until Oct. 24. Earlier Tuesday, the German state of Bavaria canceled this year's Oktoberfest, which attracts millions of dirndl- and lederhosen-clad people to Munich from mid-September to early October. The Berlin Marathon, slated for Sept. 27, was also called off because of worries about the coronavirus. 

The new coronavirus , which causes a respiratory illness known as COVID-19, was first detected late last year in the Chinese city of Wuhan. In March, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic. The crisis has caused cities and entire countries around the globe to issue lockdowns, leading to shuttered stores, canceled events and the need for people to stay at home to help contain the virus' spread. Over 2.5 million people have been infected and more than 175,000 have died.

Watch this: Contact tracing explained: How apps can slow the coronavirus

IFA isn't the only major tech event that's been canceled. Mobile World Congress , the world's biggest mobile tech show, was called off in February, less than two weeks before it was set to begin. At the time, the coronavirus was largely spreading in Asia and had just started showing up in Europe, and canceling the event wasn't the obvious option for the organizers of the Barcelona trade show. Since then, though, the coronavirus has become spread to impact much of the globe. Today, it's unclear when people can return to work or leave their homes, let alone attend trade shows.

Instead of phone launches over the past six weeks, Apple, Huawei and OnePlus have all held digital events or introduced devices via press release. 

The IFA organizers didn't say what this year's trade show will look like, whether it will proceed with far fewer attendees or if it will shift to a digital format. MWC was completely canceled, and exhibitors that had planned to introduce devices in Barcelona instead announced them on their own

While IFA typically doesn't have as much big news as CES (held each January in Las Vegas) or MWC, it's a major show for electronics makers, especially those selling home appliances and computers. There's also typically mobile news at IFA, and Samsung used to hold major product launches in Berlin. Last year saw the debut of Samsung's revamped Galaxy Fold and the first OLED TV with Amazon Alexa built-in, among various other news. 

Like all tech conferences, IFA is also a key place for company executives to meet and strike deals with each other. That includes partnerships for retailers or carriers to offer devices and companies to work together on technology. The in-person meetings are key for smaller companies that don't have sales teams or the money to travel across the globe to strike deals. 

IFA also opens its convention halls to the public. Last year's show had nearly 2,000 exhibitors, and there's usually around 200,000 attendees.

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