Sun execs shine in Second Life virtual world

Sun isn't shy about taking advantage of new Internet technologies -- it was one of the first firms to launch employee blogs -- so it wasn't too surprising to see the server maker become the first Fortune 500 company to hold a press conference in the virtual world of Second Life.

On Tuesday, Sun Chief Researcher John Gage and Chris Melissinos, Sun's chief gaming officer, appeared in avatar form -- an animated rendering that can move within the virtual world -- to open the Sun Pavilion in Second Life. The pavilion includes an outdoor theater, meeting spaces and kiosks that will play videos showing Sun technology at work.

The Sun executives also talked about Project Darkstar, a Sun effort to provide gamers with the scalable back-end infrastructure they need to launch multiplayer online games. About 60 people attended the virtual press conference.

Sun hopes to use Second Life -- a world that now has a population of nearly 900,000 -- to reach developers, engineers and technically minded people, as well as to open itself up in a more informal way to a larger audience, Melissinos says.

"We are establishing a presence in Second Life, which we will use to communicate to that community what Sun is about," he says. "So we're not just about the financial-services guys, and we're not just about the federal government."

"This is really the next evolutionary step in what we've already started. When we started ( all of a sudden it gave a very personal face to a massive company," he says.

Sun plans to expand its presence in Second Life, says Melissinos, who has had a Second Life avatar for about two years.

"I'll host a couple of dance parties, invite people from the video-game industry to talk on topics," he says. "We plan on having fun."

Sun also will take a more pragmatic approach. In addition to providing videos of Sun's technology, it also may introduce virtual renderings of its products for Second Life residents to test out.

"Wouldn't that be cool to come on up and say, 'Well, I've heard about this server. What exactly does it look like? Oh, here let me take a look.' So to give people an ability to interact with these things," Melissinos says. "This is the type of thing we're considering."

Sun isn't the only corporation to enter Second Life; Toyota and a handful of others companies including Adidas and American Apparel also have entered the virtual world. Mark Warner, the former Virginia governor and possible Democratic candidate for president, showed up in avatar form for a press interview in late August.

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