A penguin has been showing up at Cisco's public events lately. Attentive and civil, it never causes a disturbance, but sits quietly on a seat and listens courteously to the presentation on routers, or optical networking, or IOS software, or whatever the topic of the day happens to be. Although the only one of its species in the room -- everyone else is human, although some are rather eccentrically dressed -- no one gives it a second look.
Circuit City have all established bulkheads there. And depending on your point of view, you could consider this influx of brands the exciting precursor of how we'll be conducting business in coming decades -- or the ultimate exercise in corporate flat-footed dunderheadedness.
"What the useful application will be for business is the million dollar question," says Bob Moore, a member of the research staff at the Computing Science Laboratory at Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), who studies virtual worlds. "A lot of it is just plain hype. We see corporations are excited about it -- just as we were excited when we first discovered it -- but the jury is still out about the real business value." "There's been a lot of breathless virtual-dog-bites-virtual-man coverage in the media," says Edward Castronova, a professor at Indiana University, and head of the school's Synthetic Worlds Initiative. "However, once we get past that kind of hype, then things could start getting really interesting."
Grand Plans, Negligible Results
Having trouble understanding what your customers really want in a pair of jeans? Let them design them personally! Ditto a car. Or a new kitchen. Want to increase brand awareness? Open a storefront where shoppers can virtually browse your products, "engage" with them, and become more loyal! Hope to convert browsing into real dollars? Enable a link that sends them to your Web site where they can hand over their credit cards!