Dell sets up 'Second Life' shop, offers PCs to residents

Dell Island features factory room, walkthrough model of the XPS 710 PC and mockup of the room where the company was founded. Photos: Dell's second life

Tom Krazit Former Staff writer, CNET News
Tom Krazit writes about the ever-expanding world of Google, as the most prominent company on the Internet defends its search juggernaut while expanding into nearly anything it thinks possible. He has previously written about Apple, the traditional PC industry, and chip companies. E-mail Tom.
Tom Krazit
2 min read
Contrary to the old axiom, Dell's getting a second chance to make a first impression.

On the Internet, that is.

The company on Tuesday formally kicked off its entry into Second Life, the virtual world created by Linden Lab, with a press conference to open Dell Island, its in-world location. Dell plans to sell virtual PCs to Second Life residents, but it will also allow them to order new PCs for their first lives, all the better to run the demanding Second Life application.

Dell in Second Life

Second Life is a virtual universe--or as some call it, a "metaverse"--that lets people create digital representations of themselves. Residents of the world have set up thriving communities with sophisticated commercial ventures and intriguing societies living alongside silliness and decadence: the most popular in-world destinations are strip clubs and casinos.

"We want to be where people are gathering," said Ro Parra, Dell senior vice president. Second Life has 1.39 million residents as of Tuesday morning, with 533,825 having logged on in the last 60 days. Just a month ago, Second Life welcomed its millionth resident.

For Dell, the idea seems to be to push the company's high-end XPS line of PCs within Second Life. These systems come with more powerful components and flashier exteriors than Dell's regular PCs, and also come with better support options. The XPS 1710 gaming notebook was available for order within Dell's Second Life island, and Parra's avatar wielded a notebook for demonstration purposes.

However, Dell only made it so far into the virtual world. Parra was on stage--sort of--within the "factory room" on Dell Island, accompanied by Linden Lab founder and Second Life creator Philip Rosedale. But he delivered his remarks and took questions from the media via the most important invention of the 19th century: the telephone.

Second Life residents can use the in-world scripting language to configure their new virtual Dell PCs to perform a number of simple tasks, such as alerting a resident when their friends are nearby, said Rosedale. But for the most part, the virtual PCs are "accessories," he said. "Linden dollars," the in-world currency, will be accepted for virtual PCs but good old-fashioned U.S. dollars are required for a real PC.

Dell Island features the aforementioned factory room, where residents can configure their real and/or virtual PCs, as well as a walkthrough model of a Dell XPS 710 PC and a mockup of Michael Dell's University of Texas at Austin dorm room, where the company was founded.

Commercial entities, including Toyota and Nissan, are quickly setting up shop within Second Life. So are venerable technology companies such as Sun Microsystems and IBM, a move that sometimes puts them in direct competition with residents who have set up their own shops that sell virtual hip cars or the latest PCs.