Monday, June 4, 2007

IBM and Second Life

A couple of weeks ago IBM published a press announcement about opening a Business Center in Second Life, where you would be able to go through the whole purchasing process up to the point where the contracts are signed. Are mainframers supposed to know what Second Life is ? Well, I’ve got two adolescent sons walking around the house and it’d been in the news a couple of times. So, until now, I was at least aware of its existence.

In short Second Life is a completely virtual world, which, as I came to find out, is really huge. People are leading – as the name suggests – a ‘second’ completely virtual ‘life’. And leading such a virtual life seems to be very attractive as about 6 million people are signed up in Second Life and there are usually some 30.000 people online. So, why not put up a virtual Branch Office of IBM.

But why did IBM put up a Business Center in a world I mainly associated with free time and gaming ? My mistake, I found out that lots of companies are having locations in Second Life and that IBM really has a vast representation over there. Name a lab, it’s there : Hursley, Boeblingen . . . Name a country : IBM Italy, IBM Benelux . . . it’s all there. So, IBM must have a solid belief that Second Life is really adding value to their business. And more than 200 IBMers are active in Second Life.

Of course I had to go and see for myself and perhaps meet with the IBM staff of this Center in person. So I made an account (MarcW Writer – you have to pick your lastname from a list) and I set off for my first virtual journey. Actually that wasn’t so difficult. The announcement gives the SLURL (Second Life URL) for this Business Center. You’re immediately teleported (hey, it’s a virtual world) to the entrance of the Business Center. I had some trouble finding my way at first, but after a while I arrived at the heart of the center. Indeed, some IBM people were present. I had a little chat with Takeshi Sautereau, who showed me around a bit and whose task it is to help clients, answer their questions, give them the necessary information . . . So say hello from me to Takeshi when you get over there. He complimented me on my blog, by the way. So even in virtual life, my reputation was already running ahead of me ;).

I went back a couple of times wandering through the Redbook library, a virtual museum, the meeting rooms and even some large conference rooms, but you cannot say it was very crowded at those places. I didn’t meet any Benelux people in the Benelux area. So, though I can see the potential of it all, I’m still puzzled at where this will lead to. I also talked to Maximiliano Ducatillon (IBM) and he pictured the center as an alternative means to meet customers. He will invite me to the next conferences because I really would like to see some more people over there. I’ll keep you informed.

What can I say, I’ll have another go at it, but for the moment I’m mostly confused and wondering whether ‘real’ clients with ‘real’ IBM contacts, will really find it a benefit to go and do business or even find information in this ‘virtual world’ ? But then again, it also took quite some time for the internet to get incorporated into business life.

I’m sure I will get back to this subject, when I’m virtually grown up – no pun intended ;), I think.

So, if you didn't get the message :
just register and go and take a look for yourself !
Any comments about experiences are welcome !

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