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Just as computers and the internet couldn't make the paperless office, cheap and ubiquitous video calls barely affected business travel. Dealmakers, teammates, customers and above all sales people know the value of personal communication intuitively and measurably.
This is why conferences remain so important for large companies that love or hate them – a claim that is being tested with the global corona virus pandemic. I love and loathe events, especially tech. Davos is a cleaning and blowing platform, but the ability for multinational companies to see dozens of customers at once is undeniable. The CES in Las Vegas is even worse, a dead end of technical humanity, which is nevertheless a must for anyone who is technically savvy, precisely because the gang is all there. I love TED, some private events that I can't name, and of course Fortune Brainstorm Tech, which will take place in Aspen, Colorado from July 13-15 this year.
Workers in Barcelona are dismantling the MWC show after their sponsors have been canceled due to the coronavirus outbreak. David Zorrakino – Europa Press via Getty Images
Of course it doesn't matter what I like or dislike. These meetings are critical to the business, which is why the cancellation of the Mobile World Congress, due to take place in Barcelona later this month, is so important. It is a 33 year old institution in the cell phone industry and more than 100,000 people are appearing. (I went in 2004 when it was called 3GSM – compare the “3” to today's 5G – and was in Cannes, France. My mission was to interview the Motorola CEO. It worked. We sent Aaron the past a couple of years ago.)
The removal of MWC will have a devastating economic impact. It will harm Barcelona, the companies that have put capital into their exhibitions and the association that hosts the show. The group is rightly concerned about the health and safety of its participants and feels for the victims of the virus. But his hand was forced by the cancellation of his exhibiting companies.
The question now is what happens next. Will 5G phone sales stall because the companies that manufacture them can't sell them to partners at a huge conference? Or will they be innovative and find other ways? I suspect the latter – and also a brutal shock at these events, which is indispensable for global trade.
Happy Valentines Day. (I appreciate your feedback, bad and good.) The datasheet returns on Tuesday after the United States celebrated a day where only George Washington was previously honored, but now pays homage to all of the country's presidents, including the incumbent.
This edition of the data sheet was curated by Aaron Pressman.