Overheard: Word of the Day

Jan 9 2009   3:42AM GMT

Overheard – Move over Second Life. Web Alive has come to town.

Margaret Rouse Margaret Rouse Profile: Margaret Rouse

Lenovo unveiled a virtual world called eLounge, which is powered by Nortel’s recently announced virtual world platform, web.alive. Lenovo appears to be using this venue as a social and interactive platform for providing information on their products and services — notably, their laptops.

Dennis Shiao, Review: Lenovo’s eLounge Virtual World

When I woke up this morning, I felt like I’d been out late to a party at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. (Unfortunately, I was still in upstate New York surrounded by snow.)

You see, last night I went to virtual trade show hosted by Lenovo. They are using a platform called web.alive. It’s Web-based and like nothing else I’ve experienced in browser-based virtual world software. I actually felt as if I had been at the conference, meeting people, looking at laptops and Lenovo’s new netbook. The only thing that was missing from the conference experience were the free pens and the chance to enter a raffle.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time in Second Life. I’ve probably installed it and uninstalled it at least five times over the past year. I’ve been to virtual events at Cisco and IBM. Second Life for business is interesting, but nowhere as exciting as what I experienced last night at Lenovo’s virtual store.

There’s something different about web.alive’ platform.  For one thing the navigation is intuitive and it only takes a first-time visitor a few minutes to figure out how to get around. You don’t see avatars standing around with their heads down and arms out — wiggling their fingers as they type on some invisible keyboard.  That’s what happens when you visit a business site in Second Life — everyone looks like zombies.

At Lenovo’s eLounge, however, you see energetic people walking around with their heads up. You can talk to the software developers, you can talk to the Lenovo sales representatives or you can talk to other people who’ve wandered in and are marveling at the experience of being in this rather wonderful virtual world. And if you’re not all that social?  You can just wander around and eavesdrop. The experience feels real.

I’ve been to other virtual trade shows on line. They’re interesting, but they’re flat.  Literally flat, clickable images. And the experience is flat.  Here’s a tour of AMD’s virtual trade show last year, for example. It’s nice, but it’s so…last year. :-)

The architects at web.alive are on to something big. And they’re marketing it to the right audience — business people whose budgets are tight — who need to collaborate — who want to stay on the cutting edge.

If you have a few minutes today I strongly suggest you stop by Lenovo’s virtual store.  You’ll view the virtual environment as a Web page after you download and install a small browser plug-in.

I think you’ll be surprised, not only by the high quality graphics and the amazing audio, but by the real feeling of community you’ll experience.

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