While this blog is new, I have actually been blogging for a bit of time now over on Direct2Dell. My two topics of discussion there are Dell.com and Second Life. My standing joke is that Dell.com is my first job and Second Life is my second job.
The opportunities I see in virtual worlds are something I can get very passionate about, though, and I’m always happy to be approached on the topic. So, I jumped at the chance when Jacqui Zhou asked if I’d write a post on the topic for the Chinese Direct2Dell. If you can read Mandarin, you can see the final result that posted there today.
Or, here’s the English version:
Dell’s Adventure into the Metaverse
The term metaverse is used to refer to the ever-growing number of virtual worlds or immersive 3D spaces that allow their users to interact through avatars. Some China-focused virtual worlds include HiPiHi and Novoking, but both are often compared to one of the most-talked-about which is Second Life.
Second Life refers to itself as an “online, 3D virtual world imagined and created entirely by its Residents”. First opened to the public in 2003, it surged in popularity and notoriety in 2007. I first became a resident in 2006 and at that time there were rarely more than 9,000 people inside the world at one time. Today, concurrent users frequently top 50,000 and the number of accounts that have been opened has grown into the millions. The main appeal to me, personally, was the ability to connect with people in one place, while in real life we were spread across the globe.
Second Life does not have a true Chinese version at this time, however, I learned from Tong Sun – a fellow corporate Second Life resident at Xerox, known as Maymay Ansome in SL – there is a vibrant Chinese community within the world including Chinese schools for interactive language learning and shopping malls with traditional Chinese items. Most Chinese people she has met in SL are bilingual (English-Chinese). Although the SL client does not support Chinese natively, residents can easily type Chinese in chat. Tong noted that most prefer to use Second Life’s voice feature, however.
Dell as a company decided to enter the world of Second Life in the fall of 2006 for several reasons. One of the main ones was to learn more about the 3D environment. Many people have predicted that the next wave of the Internet is 3D, and as a leader in online eCommerce, we want to make sure that we are prepared for what comes next rather than trying to catch up with it later. Second Life in particular was a virtual world with an already robust commerce-driven economy. In fact, the first person to reportedly have become a millionaire through Second Life is from China.
Some thought it was a strange idea for Dell to enter Second Life. Others were more accepting. It is truly a different world and a new adventure for this company, but innovation requires risk-taking. During our first year in SL, we had a dolphin attend an Earth Day event, we’ve built an XPS 710 you can walk inside and trees that can grow as fast as you want them. We’ve had dragons dance on a giant ark to music played by a frog and a cat.
But, we’ve also had residents of Latin America in-world asking questions and getting them answered by Michael Dell while his live webcast from NYC streamed into our StudioDell theatre. In July, we began keeping English-language customer service “office hours” during weekdays, and expanded those to include technical support assistance from 7-9:00 p.m. SLT, Monday – Friday. These are not meant to replace any of the traditional methods our customers have for support, but rather to provide one more avenue for connection. Because, beyond eCommerce, the other reason we came into Second Life was to connect with the community there, to meet our customers on a more personal level and engage in real conversations.
Hopefully, we can expand those conversations into more languages, such as Chinese, in the future. A decision to do this would depend on the demand, so if you would like to see this, please let us know here at Direct2Dell. As well, please leave suggestions on how we could better leverage virtual worlds in China and across the region!