Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Sun Hosts News Conference in Second Life

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- Sun Microsystems Inc. spared the stodgy PowerPoint slides when it announced its new gaming strategy. Instead, 60 journalists, analysts and product developers from around the world sent their virtual proxies -- known as avatars -- to a simulated world on the Internet.

The event, hosted by the avatar of Sun Chief Researcher John Gage and held on an island in the online game "Second Life," was billed as the first news conference by a Fortune 500 company in the game.

"Second Life" is a subscription-based 3-D fantasy world devoted to capitalism -- a 21st century version of Monopoly that generates real money for successful players. More than 885,000 people have avatars who interact with one another in the virtual world.

"We've been trapped inside the text world for so long," Gage said. "It's time for us all to get more Second Lifey."

Santa Clara-based Sun, which develops hardware and software for corporate networks and for gaming servers, hopes its "Second Life" outpost will become a destination for 4 million people worldwide who help write Sun's open-source code. No more than 22,000 can make it to Sun's annual physical gathering in San Francisco.

"We'll have bean bag chairs, and it will be a great place for people to try out code," Gage's avatar said on an outdoor stage flanked by billowing trees and ocean. "We want it to be just like your local neighborhood."

Brands such as Toyota Motor Corp.'s Scion, Intel Corp., CNet Networks Inc., Advance Publications Inc.'s Wired magazine, Adidas AG and American Apparel Inc. have already been building "Second Life" outposts. In August, former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner became the first real-world politician to host a "Second Life" town hall meeting.

"What corporate presence within `Second Life' allows for is a different type of immersion in the product," said Donald Jones, Georgetown University graduate student writing his thesis on "Second Life." "It provides the corporation with an opportunity to seem like they're cutting edge. It helps them sell their image and their lifestyle within cyberspace."

Sun's virtual news conference Tuesday wasn't entirely glitch-free. The avatar of Philip Rosedale, Linden Lab's founder and CEO, briefly appeared on stage naked because of a software bug.

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