Teleconference apps and new tech surge in demand amid coronavirus outbreak

(Reuters) - Global downloads of business apps including Tencent Conference, WeChat Work, Zoom, Microsoft Teams and Slack have risen nearly five fold since the start of the year, data showed, as the coronavirus outbreak changes how corporations work.

The Slack Technologies Inc. logo is seen on a banner outside the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) during thew company's IPO in New York, U.S. June 20, 2019. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

While such apps attracted 1.4 million new users across the App Store and Google Play in the first week of January, that figure jumped to a record 6.7 million in the first week of March, according to app analytics firm Sensor Tower.

The outbreak, which reached global pandemic status this week, has forced companies to rely heavily on business conferencing tools as workers stop commuting to offices.

These services range from video conferencing apps such as Zoom and Google Hangouts Meet to cutting edge tools inspired by “Star Wars” to make remote work more manageable.

Some of these newer services such as Rumii and Spatial, which let users attend meetings in digital rooms where they can see and interact with digitized, 3D versions of their coworkers.

Zoom Video Communications Inc’s daily active user base grew by 67% since early January, data from Apptopia showed. Analysts, however, warn that not every business app would see a corresponding financial gain from the demand surge.

“Most of them offer a freemium version so why would users pay when they can use for free,” Summit Insights Group analyst Jonathan Kees said, pointing to services like Microsoft Teams and Zoom, which recently expanded their free offerings.

Zoom last week said it had seen a jump in usage, but added it was early to say whether such users will convert into paying customers.

Shares of the company have surged more than 60% since the beginning of this year, even as broader markets have been volatile on fears that the fast-spreading virus could lead to a global recession.


Rumii, a virtual reality training and education platform by Doghead Simulations, which costs $14.99 per month per user, last week began offering its services for free after noticing an uptick in use as the coronavirus spread in the United States.

New York-based augmented reality software company Spatial also saw usage of its service double over the last month.

Spatial Chief Executive Officer Anand Agarawala said that coronavirus concerns have led to a 400% surge in requests for the company’s licenses in the last month and a 50% increase in usage within the past week.

Some analysts say the accelerated adoption of business apps cannot be dismissed as a blip.

“We have to consider that some of these changes may be irreversible, when (hopefully) things return to normal,” DA Davidson analyst Rishi Jaluria said.

“You’ll see more companies adopting these technologies and using them on a regular basis. So the benefit is more long-term in nature.”

Reporting by Akanksha Rana in Bengaluru and Arriana McLymore in New York; Editing by Arun Koyyur