Dell Gets a New Lease on a Second Life

The PC maker says its venture into virtual games will help it connect with customers, while it looks for another way to boost its direct sales.

Dell wants a chance at a "second life."

The Round Rock, Texas, PC maker announced Nov. 14 that it has become the latest IT company to open shop in Second Life, the 3-D, virtual world created by Linden Labs of San Francisco.

Dell now joins the likes of IT companies such as IBM and Sun Microsystems, which have also created a virtual presence in Second Life.

A number of companies have ventured into this virtual world in the past few months and the Reuters new service now has a bureau there as well.

Ro Parra, senior vice president at Dell, and Philip Rosedale, the CEO and founder of Linden Labs, held a joint press conference to talk about the PC makers leap into Second Life.

The announcement was made both in real life and within the virtual island that is Second Life.

"We want to be where people are gathering and they are gathering on the Web in record numbers," Parra said.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about Dell and its new line of Opteron-based servers.

In addition to creating a virtual presence in Second Life, Dell will allow its customers to shop, configure and create their own PCs while in the virtual world and then have the real computers shipped to their actual home.

The concept of combing real and virtual commerce to increase PC sales and connect to its customers fits in with Dells new marketing plan called Dell 2.0.

The company announced the new initiative on Sept. 16 as a way to counter criticism and improve product design, services and its customer relations.

As part of this plan, the PC has also begun to offer more desktops, notebooks and servers with Advanced Micro Devices processors as well as refreshing its Intel-based line of products.

How that strategy is paying off will be seen in some part on Nov. 16 when the company announces its third-quarter profits. In recent weeks, Dell has lost ground to rival Hewlett Packard in both the U.S. and worldwide markets, according to studies by Gartner and IDC.

Outside of offering virtual tours of its factory, giving its customers another platform to order its PCS and saying it would use Second Life as way to connect to these customers, Dell offered little indication about where its virtual experience would take the company.

When IBM began its participation in Second Life, Big Blue announced that it would invest $10 million in technologies that help enable these virtual worlds.

Dell did announce that one of the first PCs that would be available to customers through Second Life would be the XPS 710, which also launched on Nov. 14.

/zimages/4/28571.gifClick here to read more about recent security problems for Second Life users.

The XPS 710 is a desktop computer geared toward gamers and comes with Intels Core 2 Extreme QX 6700 quad-core processor. Intel announced on Nov. 14 that its quad-core chip is ready to ship.

Those users of Second Life, whose virtual alter egos are called avatars, can use their Dell computers in the virtual world. Rosedale said his company has developed scripting language that allows users to connect to the Internet in Second Life.

During the announcement, Rosedale said he was pleased that Dell had decided to take up a virtual existence.

"Dell is doing something really unique here and its genuinely useful for this community," Rosedale said. "Its growing in a way that makes sense."

/zimages/4/28571.gifCheck out eWEEK.coms for the latest news in desktop and notebook computing.