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Microsoft's biggest conference of 2020 goes virtual due to coronavirus

(Image credit: Microsoft)

This year, Microsoft Build is being cancelled –– sort of. The annual developer conference will now be an online-only event, The Verge reported as the COVID-19 crisis intensifies.

Microsoft Build was poised to attract 5,000 participants and was scheduled to take place in Seattle on May 19-21, but with concerns about safety amid coronavirus concerns, Build 2020 will go digital.

"The safety of our community is a top priority," a Microsoft spokesperson told The Verge in a statement. "In light of the health safety recommendations for Washington State, we will deliver our annual Microsoft Build event for developers as a digital event, in lieu of an in-person event."

The first United States coronavirus case was confirmed in Washington, and as of March 12, the death count in the state climbed to 31. The US state is the hardest hit with a total of 457 COVID-19 cases so far.

For the Redmond-based tech giant, Build is a pivotal annual event for news dissemination of updates and innovations of Microsoft products, including Windows, Office and other software services. Microsoft aims to divulge more information on its dual-screen devices at Build 2020.

Microsoft's digital shift for Build 2020 follows the tech giant's recent move to cancel its in-person Most Valuable Professional (MVP) Summit, which was scheduled for March 15-20.

In a similar move, Google recently scrapped its own I/O developer event, which was due to take place on May 12-14.

Big-name tech bigwigs have been following the advice of medical professionals, such as public health researcher Dr. Gary Lyman, who said "Social distancing has proven to be one of the most, if not the most effective ways to slow and lessen the impact of an epidemic like this."

Lyman stated that social distancing would flatten the COVID-19 cases curve that's poised for an upward trend.

Dr. Steve Pergam, an infectious disease expert, agreed. "What people should think about now is how they can avoid being in a public group. That means staying home for movies and meals instead of going out. And having your pharmacy deliver your medications to your home," he said.

Build 2020 joins a cluster of other big-spotlight events that shifted to the virtual realm due to coronavirus concerns, including Facebook's F8 developer conference and E3.