As social distancing becomes the norm, FinalBoss looks at how companies are helping people stay connected.
Almost every nation on Earth has restricted travel, and several like Italy are in full lockdown over the coronavirus. As the global economy comes to a halt, governments are doing their best to ensure people still have jobs and money. Corporations have also stepped in, to pitch in anyway they can. Here’s a look at some of the things the tech industry is doing to help during the pandemic.
Returns and Repairs at Apple
Apple announced it was closing all its stores outside China until March 27. Anyone who purchased a new device will have 14 days after stores reopen to return their device, as opposed to the 14 day limit that kicks in after purchase.
As for repairs, the company said it is working to complete all repairs. If a device is ready for pickup, Apple will contact the customer with details. Of course, this is dependent on spare part availability, which is right now very limited. Apple’s online support portal is still open, so anyone with issues can head to http://www.apple.com/support if they are facing issues.
Enterprise Tools from Google & Microsoft
As more and more companies have switched to remote working, Google and Microsoft are giving away free access to their premium collaboration tools. Google is giving away free access to “advanced” features of Hangouts Meet, as well as G Suite and G Suite for Education customers. Until July 1st, organisations can host meetings with up to 250 participants, record and save meetings to Drive and live stream to up to 100,000 viewers. Usually, Google charges £20/month per user for these features under its Enterprise tier.
Microsoft is giving away a six-month trial of its premium tier of Microsoft Teams. Users will have to connect with a member of Microsoft’s sales team to take advantage of the promotion though. The free version of Teams is also getting an upgrade, removing the 300 user limit and enabling scheduling of calls.
Staying Calm with Headspace
The mindfulness and guided meditation app Headspace is now free for any health care provider, albeit only in the USA. You need a National Provider Identifier (NPI) and an email address to register. Once registered, healthcare professionals will have access to the full library of guided meditations, sleep sounds and bedtime exercises.
Dark Noise, the ambient noise application is also available for free, through TestFlight. The app usually costs £3.99, and comes with 30+ high quality sounds and animations that help you focus, sleep or relax.
Keeping Fit with Mobile Apps
CARROT fit, the snarky fitness app, is now free for the next two weeks, down from its original price of £4.99. The app provides a collection of seven minute workouts, described as “punishing”. Each workout consists of 12 exercises, for 30 seconds each with 10 seconds of rest inbetween.
If yoga is more of your thing, you can also download Down Dog’s collection of apps for free until April 1st. The collection features Down Dog, Yoga for Beginners, HIIT, Barre, and 7 Minute Workout, so there’s something for everyone.
If you enjoy workouts guided by a professional, Planet Fitness is offering free in-home workouts, live streamed through the company’s Facebook page. Free for both members and non-members, the classes will be live streamed daily at 7:00 PM eastern time (11:00 PM GMT).
News Outlets Keep Your Up to Date
In times like this, access to high-quality factual journalism is critical, and it seems like several news organisations agree. Some publishers have dropped their paywalls, giving non-subscribers the ability to access content that was previously restricted. The Atlantic, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and Bloomberg News have made all coronavirus-related coverage free to non-subscribers. This is a huge step forward, especially as paywalls are seen as critical to sustaining publications.
Digital Tools for Governments
ServiceNow, the cloud-computing company, is giving government agencies free access to its apps and tools to help them respond to the COVID-19 outbreak. The state of Washington in the US was the first to use the company, to create an app that allowed its 1,800 health department employees to coordinate. The app will now be available to any public agency or company worldwide, even for those that aren’t customers of ServiceNow. The company has also created a set of apps, including one that allows employees to let their employers know if they are in quarantine and when they will return.
Universal Turns to Digital Releases
As theatres are shutting down to help with social distancing, Universal Studios has opted to release its current slate of films as digital rentals. The Invisible Man, The Hunt, and Emma will all be available from the 20th of March as rentals for $20 each. The three movies were in the middle of their theatrical runs, before the virus broke out. The upcoming Trolls World Tour will also be available as a digital rental on April 10, the day it was due to release in theatres.
The $20 price is far higher than the $3.99 price tag most digital rentals have, but it’s necessary to offset the losses studios face after theatres shut down. As per the Digital Entertainment Group, movie purchases and rentals accounted for just $9.3 billion in sales, as compared to the $42.5 billion generated from ticket sales in 2019.
Tech Companies Help You Learn a New Skill
If you are wondering what to do with your free time, why not pick up a new skill from LinkedIn? The company is opening up 16 of its LinkedIn Learning courses for free, that are usually available only for premium subscribers.
Indian e-learning platform Byjus is also going free, offering school students full access to its entire library of learning content till the end of April. Students up to the third grade can access maths and English lessons, while students from the fourth to 12th grade can access maths and science content.
Any education institution that subscribes to Adobe’s Creative Cloud suite of apps can now enable “at home” access for students and teachers. Access will be available at no extra cost globally, till May 31st.
Independent Restaurants Get a Boost
Independent businesses delivering food via Uber Eats and DoorDash will have their delivery fee waived. With in-restaurant dining banned in many cities around the world, food delivery has seen a sharp rise in popularity. According to Uber, there are over 100,000 registered independent companies on the Uber Eats platform, so this move should help them remain in business. All such restaurants will be highlighted with a EAT LOCAL banner in the app.
Mega-Business Supports the Little Guys
Plenty of other companies have jumped on board with support for those worse affected by the outbreak, providing employees with salaries even though operations have ceased.
LVHM, the French multinational that owns Dior and Givenchy, has committed to providing hand sanitiser for free to French health authorities. The company will use its perfume factories to manufacture sanitisers, which have quickly gone out of stock globally.
Surprisingly, Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastain has announced he is forgoing his salary for the year, and Southwest Airlines CEO Gary Kelly is taking a 10% pay cut.
It’s unclear right now how long social distancing measures will be in place, but it is great to see corporations stepping up and doing their bit to help at a crucial time like this. It’s important to remember that not everyone who carries the virus shows symptoms, so social distancing is the best way to reduce the rate of transmission.