eBay’s new APIs: Harbingers of the Net’s commerce operating system to come? by ZDNet's David Berlind -- Yesterday, as can be seen from the video, we captured a part of eBay’s senior director of Disruptive Innovation Max Mancini’s keynote address at eBay’s Developer Conference in Boston. eBay made a series of announcements regarding new APIs and developer tools. Among them, the release of two new APIs that developers can use as they [...]
Broadcom Buys-Out GlobalLocate For $226M
GPS is really starting something. Today Broadcom (Nasdaq: BRCM) acquired San Jose-based Global Locate for as much as $226M, including a $146M up-front cash payment, and up to $80M in possible cash earn-outs.
Founded in 1999, Global Locate has focused on A-GPS (or assisted GPS), which sounds like a minor derivative but it is a big deal. GPS is slow and has a hard time penetrating buildings. A-GPS marries GPS with terrestrial cell-towers. Wireless operators are already selling GPS-enabled cell phones as life-savers so that when someone calls 911 and then passes out they can be located thanks to their GPS cell phone. That works great unless that person is in a building or subway.
GlobalLocate Chips Power TomTom One GPS devices. Last January Motorola invested in Global Locate and it has also taken funding from Siemens.
By BOB TEDESCHI
Published: June 11, 2007
But will the game’s players buy anything for themselves?
Retailers and manufacturers like Reebok, Adidas, American Apparel and 1-800Flowers.com are setting up shop in Second Life, hoping that users will steer their avatars to these stores and buy goods to deliver to their real world addresses. So far, retailers say they have low expectations for their efforts, but some believe that the experiments could yield important lessons on how people might operate in the online realm.
“What we’re doing reminds me of the early days of the online world,” said Christopher G. McCann, president of 1-800-Flowers.com. “The first site we launched in 1995 was in 3-D, because I said people wouldn’t want just two-dimensional photos. Here we are, 12 years later, back into this virtual world.”
The company’s Second Life initiative, which rolled out last week, is in a brick greenhouse bearing the company logo. There, users may browse various plants and cut flowers, including a collection of “Happy Hour” bouquets arranged to resemble cocktails. Avatars may take a free floral arrangement, or users may also click from the game’s 1-800-Flowers.com store to the company’s Web site to buy one directly.
Mr. McCann said that he expected to distribute more virtual bouquets than real ones. “This is more about relationship building for us right now, and exposing our brand,” he said.
The opening of virtual stores in Second Life raises interesting questions as virtual worlds mesh elements of both e-commerce and bricks-and-mortar retailing. How, for instance, does a company market itself?
As with many companies that opened stores in Second Life, 1-800-Flowers.com contracted an outside vendor. That developer, This Second Marketing, which is based in
The team interacted with about 1,600 people in 60 hours, according to Joni West, president of This Second Marketing. In the first three days the greenhouse was open, it had more than 900 visitors, she said.
Joseph Laszlo an analyst with the online consulting firm Jupiter Research, said that building a store on Second Life will not come easily to many online merchants. “You actually have to think more like a bricks-and-mortar retailer than a virtual retailer,” he said.
Mr. Laszlo said retailers must still consider such things as store layout, shelf space and ways to help users find an item.
Location can also matter, but not as much as in the physical world. Rather than walk aimlessly through Second Life, people tend to navigate the realm by searching for specific services or landmarks in the search box and transporting themselves directly there.
One of the more successful commercial applications within Second Life has been Reebok’s virtual store, where users may create custom versions of Reebok shoes for their avatars, and for themselves.
According to Benjamin James, who leads the
Mr. James said he did not know how many of those people clicked through to Reebok’s Web site to buy physical reproductions of their avatars’ shoes, but he said the effort, which began in October, was indeed helping to sell the real items. “This allowed people to get comfortable with their product in the virtual world,” he said.
Other Second Life retailers said they had not seen results in their stores.
“I’m not really sold on it yet,” said Raz Schionning, who oversaw American Apparel’s entry into Second Life last year. Mr. Schionning said the store, allows people to buy digital versions of the company’s clothes, and also click over to AmericanApparel.net to buy the real items.
Mr. Schionning said he could not comment on the level of sales that have come from the company’s Second Life store, but he indicated that the numbers were quite small.
“The user interface is not particularly intuitive,” he said. “It took me a while to figure out how to buy something.”
One problem with selling on Second Life, Mr. Schionning said, is that it is so new that retailers have not come to a consensus on how to do it. As a result, buyers are not sure how to approach a transaction. “We’ve all become accustomed to how an e-commerce site works,” he said, “but on Second Life, those conventions haven’t really been established.”
“It’s not unlike the way it was on the Web initially,” Mr. Schionning added. “So there might actually be an advantage to waiting and watching to see what happens.”
Either way, the sudden popularity of three-dimensional virtual spaces online suggests that consumers are ready for that sort of experience even if retailers are not. Mr. Schionning, for one, says they will have to be ready soon.
“There’s a gap between the current online shopping experience and the next generation,” he said. “A virtual world can at least bring you closer to the store experience without actually bringing you there. I’m not convinced Second Life is that answer, but it is a step along the path.”
In the meantime, Linden Lab, the privately held
The company does not earn a commission on sales made on the site, but it charges rent to developers who want to create customized spaces on the service. Companies can lease a 65,000-square-meter parcel for $200 a month. But to develop that land, businesses typically pay technology companies between $100,000 and $5 million, industry executives said.
According to Christopher Mahoney, Linden Lab’s business development manager, the company has in recent months experienced a spike in interest from software developers. Those developers, he predicted, will be able to deliver photo-realistic renderings of offline stores and merchandise in the next five years.
“Imagine taking an avatar and walking around a house, painting the walls dynamically and furnishing it with products from Pottery Barn or Ikea,” he said. “There’ll be a point when a 3-D Internet solves problems in your real world.”
Adult magazine unveils virtual rabbit head-shaped island populated with female avatars and merchandise.
June 12 2007: 1:07 PM EDT
The adult entertainment company said it is offering Second Life residents a taste of the Playboy lifestyle on a rabbit head-shaped island, which houses a retail store and will feature events and social opportunities.
The virtual Playboy store includes merchandise from PlayboyStore.com and ShoptheBunny.com, and is staffed by female avatar employees wearing Playboy-branded apparel or Playboy Bunny costumes. Playboy-branded apparel can be purchased in the virtual store for real-world wear or Second Life avatars.
"Just as Playboy is expanding its brand in the real world with the Playboy Club in Las Vegas and retail stores across the globe, entering Second Life is a great way for Playboy to leverage its brand in the virtual world in a fun and innovative setting, " Jeremy Westin, executive vice president at Playboy Media Group, said in a statement.
Although the company has seen a slowdown in its print and TV business, it has seen healthy increases in sales from "new" media, such as mobile and online services. Last month, Playboy reported a better-than-expected first quarter profit, helped by strength in its licensing brand business.
Playboy is the first men's lifestyle brand to have a presence in Second Life, the company said.