Dell means business in Second Life

They want to be where people are gathering so it was an easy decision to make for Dell to go into Second Life.

So said Ro Parra, senior vice president and general manager for Dell’s Home and Small Business Group, in his presentation during a press briefing today in Second Life to launch Dell Island, Dell’s first venture into this virtual world.

That’s not the half of it, though.

Parra spoke of Dell’s plans to sell computers to residents of Second Life who will be able to build their own computer, just as a customer can do right now via Dell’s website.

In the part of Dell Island where the press briefing took place, you could see a number of what Parra called ‘configurators’ dotted around the large room.

Here, you specify your PC, providing all the information Dell needs in order to build it and ship it to you in the real world.

Just to be clear – this is real PCs we’re talking about, not virtual computers you’d use in Second Life.

It’s unclear to me whether this is global or only in the US. The latter, I would guess, at least to start with. According to a post tonight on Direct2Dell, the only option at the moment is to order an XPS M1710 notebook for delivery in the US That’s reflected in the product name in the screenshot image above.

Something Parra said in his presentation should be a big incentive for anyone listening who’s looking for a new PC – the first person to order a PC at Dell Island will get it for free.

While starting a real-world e-commerce operation in Second Life is very interesting – and has already captured the attention of some media who were at the virtual press conference – what I find especially interesting is looking at what Dell’s broader goals are with their venture into this virtual world.

They have gone live with an impressive virtual presence in the shape of Dell Island. More a collection of linked islands, it seems to me.

Imaginative and highly creative work by the Dell team and Infinite Vision Media, the company who actually created it.

I spent about an hour looking around and exploring, and plan to take some more time soon to get to know it a bit more.

Today’s virtual press conference was a useful experience. I estimate there were about 35 people there, representing some mainstream media (CNET News was there, for instance, as was Reuters) as well as bloggers and other influencers.

It felt almost surreal at one point, listening to Ro Parra talking via the dial-in conference call and seeing him on screen in a suit, just as in a real-world press event by any large corporation. He’s actually only the second avatar I’ve yet seen in Second Life wearing a business suit and tie!

He said two interesting things in particular which I think reflect a practical and pragmatic view about how any business would look at places like Second Life:

  1. Dell will learn from Second Life and gain experience there
  2. Dell is taking risks, learning as they go along

During the Q&A session following Parra’s presentation (will there be an audio transcript available, I wonder?), I asked him what he would say to those who criticize the entry of businesses into Second Life and who don’t seem to see a place for such businesses other than on their own inflexible and narrow terms and conditions.

Parra as well as Philip Rosedale (the founder and CEO of Linden Lab, the developer of Second Life) were both consistent in their answers/comments to that question.

It’s all about community, they said – recognizing the efforts of others who have gone before in their contributions to what Second Life is today, and working together to learn and to gain experience in this virtual community.

In other words, communicate and engage. Well said.

So the world’s largest PC maker now has a branch office in a virtual world. If Dell is anything, it’s a sales organization and it will be very interesting to see how and what Dell will learn from Second Life and engage with the broad community for mutual benefit.