Home Technology The tech industry's winners and losers in lockdown

The tech industry’s winners and losers in lockdown

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AFP

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Animal Crossing’s friendly, low-key gameplay landed at the perfect time

The coronavirus pandemic has been bad news for business. But even as some technology companies have been squeezed tight, others have actually seen a boost.

Some were in the right place at the right time – while others have seen the real-world trade they rely on shut down completely.

Winner: Working from home

When your boss told you to start working from home, you might have had to rush to get to grips with the new kit to do so.

Entire populations did – which is good news for those making the software.

Despite some major PR disasters around privacy and security issues, Zoom‘s stock price more than doubled since December.

And its user numbers have exploded from 10 million a day to 200 million.

Once a relatively unknown business app, it’s been used for everything from cabinet meetings to farm-animal cameos.

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Getty Images

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One California animal sanctuary is offering Zoom cameos from farm animals

It’s not alone.

In March, Microsoft Teams said it had hit 44 million users, a jump of 40% in the space of a week.

Remote-access software Teamviewer has seen “significant extra demand”.

And the chief executive of popular work-chat app Slack reported setting repeated all-time user records day after day at the end of March.

Winner: Gaming

When we’ve finished the work day, we’re still staying at home.

And Gaming is doing well while people are stuck indoors and in need of an escape.

Literally, in the case of Animal Crossing, on the Nintendo Switch – it puts the player on a deserted island getaway, building a colourful town populated by talking animals.

Players have loved designing new homes and it’s now Nintendo’s biggest game launch on the console.

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Media captionA couple whose wedding was cancelled invited friends and family to watch them tie the knot virtually

Online games are also seeing a big boost in numbers, with the newly launched Call of Duty game rocketing to tens of millions of players.

Analysts estimate game sales are up about 35% year on year.

And hardware is up 63%, meaning consoles are frequently out of stock.

Today’s success might not last, though.

New games and consoles still being made are likely to be delayed.

The head of Xbox says the industry will feel the pain in 2021.

And stock prices are taking a hit, despite the good sales figures.

Winner: Streaming

It’s not just gaming, though.

We’re also putting a solid chunk of the money we’re not spending on going out towards other entertainment.

Netflix has attracted 16 million new subscribers.

And having already shot all of its own content for the year, it says, it has fresh content scheduled for months to come.

Disney+, meanwhile, was perfectly positioned for the lockdown, launching in the UK and other markets at the end of March.

At that point, it already had more than 33 million subscribers.

Now, it has nearly 55 million – making it Netflix’s biggest competitor.

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Disney+ owns the rights to Pixar, Marvel and Star Wars properties

With cinemas shut, major current film releases have gone straight to digital.

And this has been so successful, Universal has said it wants it to continue after the lockdown ends, starting an enormous row with world’s largest cinema chain.

TV and films aside, Spotify has hit 130 million paid subscribers under lockdown.

It makes some of its money from advertising on its free service, though – and that’s completely dried up.

Mixed bag: Fitness

ClassPass, a website offering gym-class access, transformed into an online class-streaming platform after gyms were ordered to shut.

And it says demand for its new venture is high.

But that didn’t save it from having to drop or furlough most of its staff, after losing 95% of its revenue.

At-home fitness, though, is doing just fine.

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Getty Images

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Peleton is powering through some initial hiccups

Peloton was already video-streaming spinning classes over the internet to promote its fitness bikes.

And even though it had to shut its studios after a coronavirus case, its most recent financial results show sales have jumped more than 60%.

And it’s not just huge companies winning here.

YouTuber Joe Wicks has hit new levels of fame with his at-home workouts, setting a Guinness World Record for the biggest YouTube livestream.

And major sports brands are rumoured to be bidding to sponsor him.

Mixed bag: Amazon

On the surface, Amazon has had a tough time of things during the pandemic.

Warehouse workers who have long complained of poor conditions staged limited strikes.

Then, internal documents insulting one of the organisers leaked.

And France banned non-essential sales by Amazon, while it investigated safety concerns.

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Reuters

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Activists paint a message outside one of Jeff Bezos’s homes

But founder Jeff Bezos – the richest man on Earth – has reportedly increased his net worth by $24bn under lockdown.

And Amazon’s stock price has risen, while its High Street competition has closed.

But Amazon is also one of the world’s largest cloud-computing companies.

And some believe there is a chance that part of the business could take a hit from other struggling companies being unable to pay their bills.

Loser: Transport

We’re gaming and watching movies because we’re not going anywhere.

And UK car sales are at the lowest level since 1946.

Uber, meanwhile, is cutting thousands of jobs in its offices.

And that doesn’t include drivers, who are self-employed and dealing with the same crisis.

E-scooters are also under pressure, having had to shut down operations in some cities.

But that might not last.

They are currently banned from public roads in the UK.

But a UK retailer says sales have boomed anyway.

And the government is fast-tracking a trial, so they can be used instead of packed Tube trains once restrictions ease.

Loser: Tech middlemen

Companies that don’t make physical real-world products ordinary people buy – but instead acts as a middleman for the people who do – are also hurting.

AirBnB relies on people paying fees when they stay with ordinary people.

But social distancing has stopped that dead.

And the company has dismissed a quarter of its staff, about 1,900 people.

Similarly, reviews site Yelp cut a third of its workforce, just a few weeks into the crisis, after restaurants and bars shut their doors.

Even before the lockdown, WeWork, which rents offices and then turns them into shared office space, was due to be bailed out by one of its main investors, Softbank.

But that deal has now collapsed.

And Reuters reports most of Softbank’s start-up fund is tied up in companies hit hard by the virus.

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