December 7, 2011

Le Web conference: As it happens

Le Web conference, the biggest tech conference in Europe, opens in Paris Wednesday.

Since it was founded in 2008 by Seesmic creator Loic Le Meur, the conference has attracted the web's best and brightest in large numbers. About 3,000 participants from 60 countries are attending this year's event.

From Google's Eric Schmidt to Spotify founder Daniel Ek to Instagram's Kevin Systrom, the list of Le Web's speakers reads like a "who's who" of the tech world.

This year, Le Web has also landed one of fashion's biggest names on to the main stage, designer Karl Lagerfeld, pictured above.

Many Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and executives will make big announcements at Le Web and over the next two days CNN's Stephanie Busari will be at the heart of the action, blogging and tweeting from the event. Check back here for updates. You can also follow Stephanie on Twitter.

1429 GMT: LeWeb host Loic Lemur is asking Facebook's Shields if there should be a Silicon Valley somewhere in Europe. Shields responds that Facebook enables people to work as virtual teams around the world, arguing that young people prefer to cluster around cities and are not being lured into safe jobs. Shields agrees that European tech is very strong and innovative and says that in difficult economic times, renaissance happens.

She also talks about how Facebook helps people with small businesses, saying the barriers to entry are fading. People are seeing traffic ignite through connecting with Facebook, she says.

1425 GMT: Shields is talking about how storytelling is essentially the essence of Facebook. She also talks about their collaboration with the UK's Guardian newspaper. Shields says Facebook is an education tool to discover newspapers in other countries. She makes the sweeping claim that Guardian users now don't go to the publication's website, but instead use Facebook to read the paper. Four million people have downloaded the Guardian app, she says.

1410 GMT: Facebook announcement: A plugin that allows you to let people subscribe to your updates from any site where you happen to be writing or communicating.

1407 GMT: A short Q&A with Andreev, now it's the event's first female speaker, Joanna Shields, vice president and managing director of Facebook... hilariously introduced as a "small start up," by Loic Le Meur.

1400 GMT: Now on stage: Andrey Andreev London Soho-based founder of Badoo. The hugely successful social network for hook ups!

1356 GMT: Schmidt has wrapped up now, but not before making a bold prediction related to Google’s research into completely automated vehicles: “In our lifetime it is a fair statement to say that the majority of cars will be driverless or driverless-assisted.”

The last of question for Schmidt proved the most popular so far: "Why have you not bought a company in France?" Cue loud applause from audience.

1349 GMT: Schmidt is taking audience questions now. Asked rather tangentially what kind of country Google sees itself as, he said: “We’re 13 years old – so think of us as a teenager. What I’ve learned about Google is we’re not a country , we do not have our own nuclear weapons, we do not have our own police force…”

He said Google’s “values are very distinct” citing the company’s shift out of Chinato Hong Kong when faced with restrictions imposed by authorities in Beijing.

“We believe in the power of individuals,” he said.

1337 GMT: Schmidt is talking up Google's Android system, saying it is "ahead of the iPhone now" in terms of sales, availability and popularity. "Android was created before the iPhone," he says, adding - with tongue firmly planted in cheek. "Ask Bing, I'm sure it will give you the answer."

1328 GMT: Schmidt is now talking about Google's role in the political upheaval in the Middle East this year: "Our contribution to the Arab Spring was to provide a tool to people who risked their lives. They were the courageous ones, not us. Everyone is overstating our role in the Arab Spring revolution."

He adds: "It’s now easier to start a revolution but harder to finish it," making the point that while it is now relatively simple to mobilize forces for political change, technology doesn't necessarily help when coming up with a replacement for existing regimes, often leading to disappointment.

"Once you’ve started the revolution, because of mobile phones and technology, expectations are very, very high."

1325 GMT: Schmidt confirms launch of a social web platform analytics.

1322 GMT: A mixed reaction in the Twittersphere to Eric Schmidt's talk so far. Some tweets saying the Android Ice cream demo is old news from two months ago. One tweeter, Carlos Domingo writes:

What a disappointment, Eric Schmidt interview is really a useless Android demo #fail #leweb11

1318 GMT: Android's Barra is taking us through Android 4.0. Cool features so far are Android Beam, which uses NFC, a "near-field communication" that authenticates the user. They've allowed every app to respond to an "NFC sharing tent," where users can tap phones together to download apps.

1316 GMT: Demo called Android Icecream Demo will be availalbe in Europe in next few days.

1310 GMT: Eric Schmidt: All the interesting new applications are going to be some combination of social, mobile and local."

1308 GMT: Google's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, is on stage now, alongside Hugo Barra, product management director for Android at Google. You can watch a live stream of their presentation here

1243 GMT: The first half of Europe’s biggest tech conference is now over and after six speakers, Karl Lagerfeld remains undoubtedly the biggest draw.

The Chanel designer adds much-needed glamour to what is essentially the biggest collection of geeks, er, sorry technophiles this side of Silicon Valley.

Most, including me, were expecting a remote, perhaps even haughty, fashion type. But they were disappointed. Lagerfeld spoke warmly and refreshingly honestly about his life.

There was not a spare seat in the packed auditorium as he revealed insights into his creativity and working life.

He also outed himself as something of an Apple "fanboy," owning four iPhones, each number given out to different categories of people, presumably in importance order.

Lagerfeld also owns 30-40 iPads! He uses them as diaries, photobooks and sketches. He even drew a sketch of Steve Jobs during his presentation.

Add to that collection hundreds of iPods with curated, annotated play lists and you get an idea of someone who takes his (Apple) technology very seriously indeed.

Lagerfeld was warm and funny and managed to set the twittersphere ablaze during his talk, becoming a trending topic for hours after.

He’s clearly a master of reinvention who thrives on using technology to keep himself current.

He was the first of the designers to form a collaboration with high street designers with his hugely-successful design for H&M.

As one Twitterer put it: "Karl Lagerfeld reminding me that those who are *truly* great also reflect balance of self awareness and humility.

Couldn’t agree more.

0951 GMT: Karl Lagerfeld tells the audience at the Le Web conference he will launch an exclusive online clothes collection called

The line will be launched in partnership with Net-A-Porter shopping portal on January 25.

"We will make fashion and technology history," he says.

The launch will include augmented reality, social media and much more, he adds.

Lagerfeld gives an exclusive sneak preview of the collection with a short video clip.

Lagerfeld tells the audience to fight banality and said he was a big fan of pop star Lady Gaga because she "hates banality."

He reveals he's a huge tech fan, carrying a suitcase with four iphones, an iPod and iPad.

The Chanel designer also charms the audience with a sketch of Steve Jobs on his iPad.


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