Google’s uncertainty over October Cloud conference means in-person I/O probably isn’t happening

Google's uncertainty over October Cloud conference means in-person I/O probably isn't happening

The COVID-19 pandemic isn’t over, even though a lot of people are pretending it is. But in October it might be, at least in a lot of places, thanks to rapid vaccine deployment. Google doesn’t know whether travel will be safe by then, so it’s hedging its bets with the Cloud Next ’21 conference. It’s definitely happening, but whether it will be in person or online is still up in the air.

The event, in-person or otherwise, is scheduled for October 12-14th. Google’s Cloud CMO Alison Wagonfeld made this rather noncommittal statement on the Google Cloud blog:

It is too early to determine the exact shape and experience of the event and how it might potentially span the digital and physical worlds—so please stay tuned for updates as we plan with the health and safety of all in mind.

Cloud Next is Google’s conference for all things related to its cloud web hosting service. It doesn’t have the kind of sexy product or software news that grabs headlines on tech blogs, but for any company that uses Google Cloud to host its platform or deliver services to customers, it’s a big deal. In-person services for Cloud Next were cancelled last year as the pandemic began to ramp up, then the all-virtual event was postponed from its original date in April. The format shifted to a series of “OnAir” digital presentations.

Shifting back to a defined date indicates that Google didn’t prefer the smaller rolling sessions. The uncertainty of a live or virtual event surely isn’t great for customers, but at this crucial juncture, it’s hard to see how it could be helped.

Major technology conferences seem to be falling on either side of an autumn divide in the Northern Hemisphere: E3 2021 in the summer has no live event, just like last year, while CES is still hoping for an in-person conference in January of 2022. With Google hesitant to commit for October, an in-person Google I/O in the summer seems all but impossible. But since last year’s was completely cancelled, we’d be surprised if there wasn’t some kind of virtual developer event for 2021.

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