LeWeb in 2012 has been dominated by devices and operating systems

Kevin Systrom, Instagram CEO at LeWeb 2012 in Paris. LeWeb is now so big that it’s as much about the global tech industry and the big names we all know as it is about what’s happening in France or even the rest of Europe. It has been and still is an agenda-setting event.

So on the day that Instagram pulled its integration with Twitter, Kevin Systrom, the CEO of Instagram, told LeWeb that the two companies would still work together in some way, Nokia launched a new Lumia 620 (and scored for the best-looking stand of the day), a budget phone for consumers who want Windows 8, and we heard about the importance of connecting services such as Shazam, Deezer and Endomondo to a larger platform (for which read global social media powerhouse Facebook).

In truth LeWeb in 2012 has been dominated by devices and operating systems, not just from Nokia but also Renault and Microsoft. The theme was “Internet of Things”, and some of the ideas and concepts presented are truly exciting. We saw a connected themostat called Nest and a robot with an iPad for a head from a company called Double Robotics. Both looked great but the truth is that mass consumer adoption and the killer idea are still some years off.

The chat at the coffee stall has been about optimization of existing services – across B2B as well as B2C – rather than innovation. There were few killer web apps and ideas.

It is clear that the presentations and stands at LeWeb reflect the changing global internet. Whereas start-ups used to dominate and drive the agenda, it’s now the Microsofts, Salesforces, Facebooks and Apple from the US that are leading innovation. Nokia is the sole standout brand for Europe.

This reflects a grown-up, big money internet, the increasingly importance of device and eco-system and the growing difficulty for start-ups to produce competitive game-changing plays. This is why most the start-ups are focused on apps that solve singular problems (like booking taxis) and integrate with existing players.

Interestingly the “Internet of Things” theme demonstrated why this trend will continue: As devices become connected, the capital costs and barriers to entry will rise.

We presented our latest data on social media engagement. Our message was that consumer adoption of social media in fast-growing markets such as China, Brazil and India is re-shaping the internet and creating a massive immediate opportunity for organisations and brands.

This is somewhat contrary to the dominance of US web services and technology, but a real fact of the new globalized web. This got a great reaction both live and via the social chat that now surrounds the big conferences.

Tom Smith is the founder of GlobalWebIndex.