Swaminathan is working on Accenture's 2008 Technology Vision -- an annual technology forecast that lays out key trends Accenture thinks will shape the IT landscape during the next five years. Among those trends is the "death" of virtual worlds.
Businesses have been exploring the potential of the new 'metaverses' such as Second Life and Habbo Hotel -- virtual environments where users' representations, called avatars, interact and explore freely in game-like settings.
"The virtual worlds hold out the promise of everything from lower infrastructure costs to new revenue streams," said Swaminathan. "But Accenture Labs foresees an imminent drop in interest as businesses hit the limits of closed virtual worlds. Much as circumscribed networks such as CompuServe gave way to the open IP world of the Internet, 'SL' and others will evolve toward much more capable open virtual worlds."
How participation in the virtual realm will benefit companies is debatable. Much of the engagement has been for publicity: Earlier this month, U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., created an avatar to virtually attend and address the climate change summit in Bali.
Second Life itself has faced challenges recently, with avatars reportedly appearing unexpectedly naked at times, graphics hiccups and, perhaps most importantly, the resignation of its chief technology officer Cory Ondrejka. Ondrejka was among the first employees at Linden Labs, and helped write the computer code that serves as the foundation for Second Life.
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