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Europe’s largest startup and tech conference, VivaTech, launched on June 16 with appearances by Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Apple CEO Tim Cook, among other business and government leaders.

In its sixth year, the conference is being held in “hybrid” mode, with a limited number of people on site at Paris’s Porte de Versailles convention center while others attend virtually.

Cook, in a virtual conversation with Guillaume Lacroix, CEO of French social-media company Brut, answered questions about the pandemic, privacy concerns, taxation of big tech companies, regulation and Apple’s environmental commitment.

Responding to a question about tech’s “dark side,” Cook said, “We all need to understand that technology by itself doesn’t want to be good. It doesn’t want to be bad either. It’s neutral. It depends on the inventor — the creativity, empathy and passion of the inventor.”

Innovations for hybrid work

The pandemic and its effect on work was a much-discussed topic, including innovations for hybrid work.

Denis Terrien, Salesforce’s CEO for EMEA, who was appointed at the height of the health crisis in May 2020, said at the conference that concerning the pandemic and its effect on work, “There was a world before, during and the new normal today. It has affected businesses such as Salesforce in the way we work.”

The U.S. software giant said in February that it would permanently allow most of its employees to work from home even after the Covid-19 pandemic subsides.

The company will offer employees flexibility in how, when and where they work including through a flexible schedule: in-office one to three days a week, fully remote or office-based four to five days per week.

Terrien added in his comments at the conference that Salesforce has created cloud-based tools to help people work remotely. Built on the Salesforce platform, tools like Work.com Employee Experience and Employee Workspace help employees increase efficiency and engagement by offering a central hub, while Employee Experience offers an intelligent help desk for employees to resolve requests quickly, he said.

Microsoft executives also how the massive shift to remote work has brought advances to videoconferencing technology to the fore.

Microsoft France’s president, Carlo Purassanta, and COO Jean-Christophe Pitié were present (Purassanta by videoconference).

Microsoft Teams, the company’s videoconferencing platform, triple its daily users during the pandemic to 145 million, Microsoft France COO Jean-Christophe Pitié said at the conference.

He noted that innovations for the software will make create “socially intelligent meetings.” New technology includes cameras that will not remain static, locating speakers in a room, and “spacial sound” for  more realistic acoustics, he added.

Purassanta, noted in a virtual interview broadcast at the conference that “this year is all about reinvention.”

The ‘infinite whiteboard’

Klaxoon, whose tools integrate with Microsoft Teams, introduced new technology at VivaTech during the conference’s first day. Its “Board Hybrid” is a virtual workspace, with content available 24 hours a day, for hybrid teams to collaborate asynchronously. The visual collaboration tool allows diverse files to be uploaded — images, spreadsheets, slide presentations and text documents.

It also offers live videoconferencing with a screen-sharing function, while encouraging short and improvised meetings that require little bandwidth.

While Board Hybrid is a virtual tool, Klaxoon presenters said the company also offers “Hybridity,” which is an actual physical team workspace for workers to immerse themselves in the “infinite whiteboard.” The (white) room accommodates three on-site employees and as many as 250 remote participants, and features built-in cameras, videoconferencing capabilities and high-resolution content browsing. For projects that are highly confidential, it can be used offline, the company said.

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