Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Meet me in my avatar's office | CNET News.com

Meet me in my avatar's office | CNET News.com

Welcome to IBM Island

Last April, the company started buying just a few islands in Second Life, and then developing those internally. In the summer, it launched its Forbidden City and Wimbledon islands, along with a digital community called 3D Jam, where employees could "jam" about ideas with family, partners or co-workers.

In October, IBM unveiled its "Global Connections," giving IBMers a virtual island where they can interact with company alumni. A month later, it bought 12 islands, including one that's become a virtual test store for Circuit City. The store gives shoppers a lounge-like experience of the retailer, with displays for the iPod and couches for sitting and gauging the right proportions of a new TV. Shoppers' avatars can then click to buy products at Circuit City's real online store.

This month, IBM introduced a prototype store for Sears, as well as its own island, Lotussphere, where clients can interact with IBM employees about Lotus software. And next week, it will take the wraps off its Australian Open island, where onlookers can watch the trajectories of balls hit in the actual sporting event or choose to see the game from the vantage point of an individual player, according to IBM.

Why is IBM so invested in seeing the virtual world succeed? Because, McDavid said, the company wants to attract and keep talented employees.

A generation of kids reared in virtual worlds like Second Life or MTV's Laguna Beach are eventually bound for a work force that will need to cater to their experiences by creating virtual worlds for the corporate intranet.

Economically, too, the world is migrating to a services economy, McDavid said, and it's all about people working together in these open, collaborative ways.

"The turning point has to do with the balance between individual and social interests within capitalism," he said. "It is the swing of the pendulum from the extreme individual...to giving greater attention to collective well-being."

No comments: