Linden Lab, IBM to Take Virtual Worlds Corporate and Private
April 7, 2008 Timothy Prickett Morgan
To many, the true promise of the Internet is not email, Web pages, and blogs, but an all-encompassing virtual world experience that allows people, corporations, and other kids of organizations to interact despite their physically dispersed bodies. This is what the Second Life virtual reality created by Linden Lab is all about. But imagine if you could create your own virtual world for your own purposes and not have to play in The World already created by Linden Lab?
That is what the partnership between Linden Lab and IBM announced last week for the Second Life Grid is all about. The two companies are collaborating to offer slices of the Second Life virtual world environment to corporations and other organizations to use for their own purposes. Linden Lab makes its money in its own Second Life world, but it can possibly make even more money by taking chat and video conferencing meetings (the latter of which are expensive) into a virtual world inhabited by avatars, replacing many of the functions of chat and video conferencing and allowing it to span much larger groups of people simultaneously.
“As virtual world technologies and platforms become more commonplace, we see a need for an enterprise-ready solution that offers the same content creation capabilities but adds new levels of security and scalability,” explained Colin Parris, IBM’s vice president of digital convergence in announcing the partnership. “Combining IBM’s and Linden Lab’s solutions together has the potential to make custom-created environments a viable option for enterprises.”
In the initial incarnation, IBM is selling customized slices of Second Life running on its BladeCenter blade servers and that are hosted by IBM’s own Global Services behemoth to customers who want to set up virtual meeting spaces for employees and customers. This is the first time that Second Life has been hosted privately and behind a firewall; the offering allows companies to set up their own private island communities, much like the wide-open World island in the real Second life.
Pricing information for this offering was not available. But in the real Second Life (yes, that is a funny idea), land costs $195 real U.S. dollars per month for a 16 acre (6.6 hectare) chunk of space, which is about enough space for 15,000 virtual people to interact. (There is also a $9.95 per month land use fee.) The Second Life Grid gives you your own island, which costs significantly more at $1,675 per month for the same 16 acre plot. Because IBM is hosting the island privately on its servers, it is fair to assume that Big Blue is charging atop these land use fees, but it could be that IBM is getting a slice of the action by being a Second Life reseller and is keeping prices the same as private islands in the main Second Life world. It would have been nice if IBM and Linden Lab just told people what it costs, right?
You can find out more about Second Life Grid at this link.