December 12, 2006 2:48 PM PST

IBM to give birth to 'Second Life' business group

IBM will launch an official group in January to deal with Second Life and other virtual realms from which the company hopes to profit.

Virtual reality and other visual interface work is the next project on IBM's plate, Irving Wladawsky-Berger said in an interview at CNET's Second Life offices. Wladawsky-Berger, vice president of technical strategy and innovation at IBM, led the company's response to earlier technologies that rewrote the rules of the computing industry, such as e-commerce and Linux.

"I have been playing a strong role in helping us start our 3D Internet and virtual-world efforts. We are launching a new EBO in this area in January--that is, an emerging business opportunity--much like we did with Linux and the grid," Wladawsky-Berger said Tuesday. IBM believes the virtual realm has potential for training, conferences and commerce, he said.

IBM in Second Life

Second Life, an online community run by a company called Linden Labs, is an electronic universe where people's virtual representations, called avatars, can chat, fly, teleport, browse stores and purchase goods. IBM has one public island on Second Life, a site named after and mimicking its Almaden Research Center near San Jose, Calif., but the company plans to open up 12 more by Monday.

Second Life, not unlike blogging, has become a new trend among technology companies hoping to show they're hip to the latest trends and that believe they might benefit from direct connections to potential customers. In recent months, IBM rivals Dell and Sun Microsystems have launched Second Life offices and held activities.

IBM employees have a significant presence in Second Life, Wladawsky-Berger said. "I think that there are close to 1,000 people in our Second Life community now active, and perhaps several thousand more that have avatars that are not that active," he said.

IBM Chief Executive Sam Palmisano's arrival in Second Life helped pave the way, he added: "Having our CEO Sam Palmisano jump into Second Life during our recent Beijing meeting helps a lot in legitimizing this kind of activity within IBM. If it is good enough for Sam?"

Second Life is one of the main areas in the new IBM group, but not the only one, Wladawsky-Berger said. "I really believe that highly visual and collaborative interfaces will become very important in the way we interact with all IT applications in the future," he said.

Virtual reality connects directly with the human mind, he added. "There is something very human about visual interfaces. I almost think of text-based interfaces, including browsers, as 'narrowband' into our brains, whereas visual interfaces are 'broadband' into our brains."

Read the full interview with Wladasky-Berger on CNET News.com.

See more CNET content tagged:
Second Life, virtual reality, Palmisano, IBM Corp., CEO

4 comments

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Lets get a few facts straight
Have you look at IBM reports on Quartery investments? There is nothing there about second life involment?

Another another thing? why are they saying this if to IBM this type of investment is a mare drop in the toliet to the company as a whole?

Mind you IBM is now making CHips for all three major home vedio games PS3 Wii and 360......
I hightly doublt the truthfulness of this report, and a few others that Linden Bals has been press one from this website.
Posted by play7 (926 comments )
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Again where are the records...............
This is such A nice spin, but where facts they are its all talk. No public records, no stockholders information. Nothing.....................Again its just a VR world with VR business spin. WELCOME TO SECOND LIFE.
Posted by play7 (926 comments )
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Julianne hough Breast VIA Gry ?not stood the silicone implants
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<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://www.harperosu.org/julianne-hough/" target="_newWindow">http://www.harperosu.org/julianne-hough/</a>
Posted by annita288 (1 comment )
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IBM Finds Out That VR is A Real Market
It's called presence, Irving. Real-time 3D or VR if you prefer, takes advantage of what the simulation experts call 'onset cues'. Researchers can explain that. It isn't 'broadband'; that is more information flowing in a pipe. It is more a query with a broad set of joins that the brain processes more or less in parallel. This creates a situation semantic that is changing in real time so can be thought of as a system of tensors.

I know: you're marketing a push by IBM into technology that it has been ignoring until now, so you need to rebrand the old wine into new bottles. I understand that. Just don't confuse the technologists while attempting to burgle the market, because otherwise, you are right. This is a big market but it is also one of the most expensive kinds of content you can hope to sell or buy so don't screw up the standards by pushing the market into a lock with SecondLife or other closed server-side systems that don't scale and aren't ecologically healthy (see articles from Nick Carr).

Have fun. Do remember that hosting businesses on other businesses' servers where they own your chat logs is possibly one of the dumbest things you can possibly suggest to your boss. When those logs become public or your competitor gets them, it's a career ender.

Smart money will get ahead of the trend by looking at the past for inspiration. Systems that scale and are secure rely on client side systems, software that any ISP can host, and that a small business can manage. SL is not the model for that. It is the Netscape of the VR world: a big start, a lot of press, and speeding toward an imovable wall called electricity vs refrigeration.

Server farms are not the future of VR.
Posted by Len Bullard (454 comments )
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