Sun Microsystems benefiting from move to Second Life

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Chris Melissinos is chief gaming officer at Sun Microsystems ( Following the major buzz surrounding the company's recent foray into the digital world of Second Life, BtoB spoke with Melissinos about why the company took a real-world risk on a virtual medium.

BtoB: Why create a marketing event inside Second Life?

Melissinos: It's going to be something different to every business. For us it offers several advantages. Location in a virtual environment allows me to be standing in this virtual space with representatives from areas around the globe?people who wouldn't necessarily have the means to travel. The other thing that a virtual environment will afford is the ability to take objects like a rendered server and break it apart physically in front of that group of people. We can give visual information along with spoken or typed information. That's something you can't do in a conference call or in pure chat, these mashups of different modalities are now available through a single 3-D interface.

Go to any three-day-long developer conference, you get all the info about the tech, but what you really see is people getting together who have never met before. It's a club. The world of Second Life provides an excellent approximation of what we do in real life. It's going to increase in personal value. We lose some of the face-to-face interaction but we gain from people being more candid. ? Just because it's in a virtual space doesn't mean it can't be as real.

BtoB: Is the cost of holding an event in this environment comparable to a real-world event?

Melissinos: It's completely relative. That cost was higher for Sun because we didn't have the expertise in-house to do this. The cost of entry is much lower for people who do. You can reduce costs by just getting to know other people in the world and holding events on their land. What we did with the Sun Pavilion, it was a bit more ambitious. There was a sense of permanence?this is going to be the place you go to discuss Sun, talk to execs, etc. The cost was higher because we wanted to build a permanent place.

The cultural barrier is higher for people who understand it and people who don't. Convincing people to spend the money is the hard part. It's not prohibitively expensive.

BtoB: Have there been any visible benefits since your launch of the Sun Pavilion in October?

Melissinos: We are still getting calls on a weekly basis to talk about what we did in Second Life. I've been at Sun for 12.5 years and I've never been at an event that we're still talking about a month later. There's a whole lot more behind what's happening that dwarfs what we're doing at Sun. Who is driving these technologies and why are they becoming so desirable? It's something we've been moving towards for a long time. The Web from a communications standpoint is becoming more important. It has also been a tremendous amount of fun. I constantly pop into the world with my Sun avatar and I also have my own personal account to just be in the world.

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