While many had hoped that things could return to normal in the U.S. this month, that is apparently not going to happen as coronavirus infections in the U.S. have yet to peak. And with over 1 million infected worldwide, who knows how many more will suffer in the weeks ahead. That is why a memo written yesterday to Apple Store employees from the company's Senior Vice President of People and Retail Deirdre O'Brien stated that Apple will be keeping its retail locations in the U.S. shuttered through the beginning of May. Last month, another memo written by O'Brien was leaked revealing that some locations could open early this month.
Bloomberg reports that Apple Store employees will continue to work from home. Just the other day, we told you that Apple is asking these workers to handle technical support calls from makeshift home offices even though it reportedly told these employees that they would continue to get paid for just staying home.
Apple has 270 U.S. brick and mortar stores with another 185 stores also closed because of coronavirus
Apple originally shut down all of its brick and mortar stores outside of China on March 14th with the expectation that they would open for business on March 27th. Apple then changed its announcement to state that the stores would be closed until further notice. Just the day before that announcement, Apple had turned the lights back on inside the 42 stores it runs in China. That's because China was beginning to recover from the COVID-19 outbreak as the rest of the world was getting hit hard.
In her memo, O'Brien wrote that "flexible work arrangements will remain in place for all offices, and all retail stores will remain closed, until early May." She noted that Apple is "continuing to monitor local conditions for every Apple facility on a daily basis" and that it will be making "reopening decisions on the basis of thorough, thoughtful reviews and the latest guidance from local governments and public health experts."
The executive also said that Apple is working on ways to make sure parents have the flexibility to adjust their schedules if necessary, especially with many parents homeschooling their kids while at the same time trying to work from home. O'Brien, in her memo, wrote that Apple's "executive team is meeting daily and closely coordinating with teams across the company." Apple has 458 brick and mortar stores outside of China with 270 in the United States.
The coronavirus outbreak has impacted Apple in other ways as well. Most employees in Cupertino are now working from home and engineers are being allowed (with permission) to take home unfinished hardware and upcoming software releases possibly including iOS 14. The company might have canceled a rumored March 31st event and simply announced the launch of two new iPad Pro models nearly three weeks ago. The budget-priced iPhone 9, one of the devices that were probably going to be announced March 31st, is now supposed to be introduced via a press release on April 15th (and launched one week later), and the WWDC Developers Conference will move to an online format in June.
The most important unveiling, and the one that Apple is defending the most aggressively, is the fall introduction of the 2020 5G iPhone models. Foxconn, the company that assembles the majority of iPhone units every year, has hired the usual number of seasonal workers it needs to build enough handsets for the launch later this year. With the assembly lines scheduled to start trial runs in June and begin production in earnest the following month, Foxconn says that it is working hard and still plans on making the deadline in time so that the new models can be available during the holiday shopping season. Foxconn investor relations chief Alex Yang told investors, "We and the customer’s engineers are trying to catch up the missing gap after we lost some days due to travel ban. There’s opportunity and possibility that we might catch up. But if there’s a further delay in the next few weeks, months, then you probably have to reconsider launching time. It’s still possible."
With the Apple Stores in the U.S. and most other countries closed, if you need a new Apple device or accessory, you can visit the online Apple store at Apple.com, or open the Apple Store app on your iPhone, iPad or Mac.