Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Macworld Highlight: iTunes DRM Free by Q2

This week it's MacWorld, which is the place to be for Apple fans. For the first time after Steve Jobs' return to Mac, the MacWorld had to do without its charismatic inspirator. Instead, the Macadelic fans had to work their way through the keynotes by Phil Schiller.

Image: iJustine @ Tasty Blog Snack

Steve's Health

Image: iJustine @ Macworld Flickrstream

With Jobs not on the spot, and only a cardboard representation present to adore, the absense of Steve Jobs led to speculations about his health, some of which included the return of cancer, untill finally Apple released a statement.

By finally deciding to talk about Steve Jobs' health, Apple may have opened a Pandora's Box.

After insisting for months that Jobs' health was a private matter, Apple changed its tack in the face of widespread speculation regarding its CEO's weight loss. On Monday, the company issued a statement that Jobs was suffering from a hormone imbalance that was "robbing" proteins from his body. That news cheered Apple investors, who dreaded far worse news regarding Jobs' health after a report last week that his health was "declining rapidly."

The disclosure was clearly painful for Jobs, who wrote in an open letter, "So now I've said more than I wanted to say, and all that I am going to say, about this." That might not be so simple.

[CNET Steve Jobs' health now a public matter ]

Taking Jobs out of the Apple Equasion would be a sure thing to upset investors and stock market as he brought Apple back to life upon his return to the company in 1997 after an absense of 12 years. Smash hits over the past years have been the iPod and iPhone which has put Apple back in business.

Apple's DRM Policy

With the iPod Apple launched the iTunes store where users can buy music. The catch has been that Apple included a DRM feature so the songs could only be played with Apple software. Although Apple itself has called its DRM policy 'Fair Play', it met strong opposition. Following actions in France and Germany the Norwegian Ombudsman ruled the Apple DRM to be illegal, according to the Register.

Apple's digital rights management lock on its iPod device and iTunes software is illegal, the Consumer Ombudsman in Norway has ruled. The blow follows the news that Germany and France are joining Norway's action against Apple.

The Norwegian Consumer Council, Forbrukerradet, lodged a complaint with the Ombudsman on behalf of Norwegian consumers claiming that the Fairplay DRM system acted against the interests of consumers. It said the fact the technology stopped songs bought from iTunes being played on any player other than an iPod broke the law in Norway.

The Ombudsman has now agreed, according to Torgeir Waterhouse, senior advisor at the Consumer Council.

In Februari 2007, Steve Jobs himself posted a lengthy article with his thoughts on the DRM which might be good to read to get some background info, but too lengthy to quote here. There's one paragraph thought which I'd like to quote:

The third alternative is to abolish DRMs entirely. Imagine a world where every online store sells DRM-free music encoded in open licensable formats. In such a world, any player can play music purchased from any store, and any store can sell music which is playable on all players. This is clearly the best alternative for consumers, and Apple would embrace it in a heartbeat. If the big four music companies would license Apple their music without the requirement that it be protected with a DRM, we would switch to selling only DRM-free music on our iTunes store. Every iPod ever made will play this DRM-free music.

We're two years on and Apple finally has made a deal with the record companies and announced the iTune products will be distributed free of DRM.

DRM Background

This act by Apple is a step forward, but it's a long way off in solving the DRM issue, because Apple isn't the problem here, it's the Music Industry itself. A good guide to catching up with the situation would be to read "The Starfish and the Spider" by Ori Brafman and Rod Beckstrom.

Digital rights management (DRM) is a term that refers to access control technologies used by hardware manufacturers, publishers and copyright holders to limit usage of digital media or devices. Whereas copy protection only attempts to prohibit unauthorized copies of media or files, digital rights management allows the issuer of the media or file to control in detail what can and cannot be done with a single instance. For example, an issuer can limit the number of viewings, number of copies, which devices the media can be transferred to etc. Digital rights management often depends on cryptography and on-line activation. Blu-Ray and some recent game titles by Electronic Arts are an example of each. Digital rights management is used by content providers such as Sony, Microsoft and the BBC. [Wikipedia]

Back in the early 20th century we did not have recordings of music and when we would like to hear a piece we would go to the theatres and opera halls, or the streetcorners to hear the music being performed. If we paid to listen, we paid directly to the musicians.

When recording devices and carriers such as vynil records arrived it opened up a whole new world. You could bring the music home. Record companies arose liked webdevelopment shops in the late 90's. A few years later it boiled down to the big 5. Five major companies gained control over 80% of the entire music industry.

Suddenly there was Napster, a rogue internet company offering music for free. The big 5 were terrified and sued Napster and broke it down. Pandora's box had been opened though and peer to peer (p2P) networks like Kazaa and eDonkey took over. Stealing music had become common practise.

The question is, is downloading music and films for free actually stealing? Yes in my opinion it is. But then again, it is no different than selling music at the current prices. It is the record companies themselves which are the biggest thieves here. They steal from both the Musicians and the consumer. As consumers we have to pay massive amounts to acquire a legal copy of an Album, whereas the performer gets just a fraction of what the Record Companies receive.

As long as this practise continues, there will be p2p distribution of music. The sole reason I think p2p has made such a big bang is because of the absurd amounts of money the big five made off the backs of the consumers and the artists. In this way, whatever DRM measure you implement, it will be prime target to hack. If we further decentralise and more and more artists start to distribute their own music through social networks at a fair price (in the Netherlands a CD is now about 24 Euro), let's say they'd sell them directly for 5 Euro, with DRM. This means a significant pricedrop, yet a substaintial gain in income for the artists. Would the download community accept that?

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Dutch Dwarf to take on World of Warcraft

A "Dutch Dwarf to take on World of Warcraft" was the general gest of a newpaper article earlier this month in the Belgian newspaper 'de Standaard ', which applied to the newly released Chronicles of Spellborn, released by Dutch game producer Spellborn N.V.

Such a claim gives rise to big expectations as the market for quality MMORPG's is getting very crowded with excellent games and you need tons of investors to get into serious competition, and Spellborn N.V. isn't a big-buck-backed company. Yes, they have had several investment rounds, but since Spellborn is their only title this is a make or break game.

Spellborn N.V. is a rather small company, based in the Hague, Netherlands and has put together a team of 40 people to work on the Chronicles of Spellborn. The game has been highly anticipated, for instance by Massively who wrote in may this year:

The team at Spellborn NV continues to entice with its latest screenshots from its closed beta for The Chronicles of Spellborn. These depict various cities and other places on the Shards of Parliament and Quarterstone, as well as some of the creatures who will be more than glad to help you test your skill at bleeding. After looking at the new screenshots, forum regulars wondered if the landscapes are too empty and flat when compared to World of Warcraft's lush richness.

Spellborn NV recently showed the game at the RPC Münster role-playing convention, where players reportedly loved the character creation system and combat systems best. Similarly to NCSoft's City of Heroes, the gear and outfits worn by Spellborn characters don't affect the gameplay -- you can look however you wish and still fight at your best. The Spellborn combat system is similar to first person shooters and Age of Conan in that you don't target anything specifically; if something is in range of your attacks, it will be hit. It also is uniquely based on a grid on which you arrange your possible attacks that moves to allow you to use different sets of all your abilities as the fight moves on, adding a "deck building" element to battle.

According to Dutch gamers magazine Inside Gamer, the Chronicles of Spellborn, or TCOS in short is a highly original game with unique graphics. The graphics are drawn in quite a darkish style, but above all it is an MMORPG with a good story.

Here are some screenshots of the The Chronicles Of Spellborn, more can be found on the TCOS site here.

Dutch band Within Temptation, a gothic metalband, has written exclusive tracks for the game. The sounds of which naturally blend in with the mood of the game, although not everyone will be a fan of this type of music. The word goes that most programmers liked to listen to the music of Within Temptation while working on the game. Barry Hoffman, Spellborn's marketing manager said:

"Their music has given a whole new dimension to our fantasy world. When we received the opportunity to work together, we got very excited. Gamers very often listen to music while gaming and it was an easy choice for us to work with a band that can give such a good mood to the game."

The affection was mutual, as Within Temptation's guitarist Robert Westerholt said:

"Actually, almost all Within Temptation members are fanatic gamers. Both at home and when touring we play fantasy oriented games to relax and get new inspiration. when we heard about Spellborn and that it was a Dutch company we were very thrilled to work together to write tracks especially for this game. The partnership will go beyond writing tracks, but we'll let you know about that later."

Spellborn sure is about to stand out in the crowd, it's graphics make it an original as well as the cooperation with Within Temptation, as it is the first time that a game has worked dedicated with a popular rockband to create the tracks for the game. The fact that it is an original may be the key to their success; It's different and cool and it becomes a smash hit, or it's too different from mainstream MMORPG and it will become a proud, but niche player on the market.

Happy Gaming.

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Monday, December 15, 2008

Sony fined 1M for collecting Child Data

Last week I blogged on an article in the Dutch Technology magazine Emerce on a plea to clean personal data from databases in the article "Personal Data Expiry", and today I came across an article with more or less the same implications.

The article reports Sony Music getting fined 1 million dollar for collecting and using personal data of minors without parental permission. As the automated Google translation as usual is kind of crappy, here's my translation of the highlights.

The music company was indicted by the U.S. regulator FTC on tuesday and agreed to a settlement of 1 million dollars on thursday. In this settlement. Sony Music admits that it has violated privacy rules against minors.

Sony Music has collected sensitive personal data without parental consent since 2004. Through 196 websites from artists like Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera the company acquired names, addresses, mobile phone numbers and birth dates from 30.000 children aged under 13. This data was reused at other websites and sometimes even published.

The 1 million dollar fine breaks up into a $33 penalty per child, but it is unclear how much profit Sony makes of minors. The record company now is obliged to have its databases cleared of all unlawfully gained personal data.

In collecting this data Sony has violated the socalled Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a law which must protect children under 13 (ed. probably best known from the Coppa declaration you have to fill in with every forum you register with). All bodies that collect personal information and process it must comply to a fixed set of measures. They are, for example, obliged to do 'a reasonable'
attempt to do the age check.

Sticky thing here is, what do you consider to be a reasonable attempt to verify? We do not have a signing authority for surfers, like we have VeriSign for website owners. You don't have to be really really smart to surf around the web pretty anonymously and spoof whatever data is required. Age Verification, Geoblocking and other protective measures we've put on the web are usually nothing more than a farce, an extra feature to make you feel secure.
  • Read the original article in Dutch here
  • Read the Google translation here.

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Monday, October 13, 2008

Coke's Back with Nestea

An interesting story about the return of Coca Cola in Second Life. Through Reuters.

SECOND LIFE, Sept 30 (Reuters) - Will the marketing of real world brands in Second Life find a second life?

Maybe. Nestea, a Coca-Cola brand, announced today it’s sponsoring Second Life’s “Junkyard Blues” venue.

Neither Nestea nor Junkyard Blues’ owners were available for immediate comment. But a visit to Junkyard Blues shows a “Sponsored by Nestea” banner over the main stage. Don’t try clicking on the banner though — it’s non-interactive.

The sponsorship, while modest, represents an affirmation of Second Life as a continued destination for real-world companies to market their goods. A recent survey by BusinessWeek ranked Coca-Cola as the most valuable brand in the world.

Nor does the choice by Coca-Cola of a Second Life blues venue seem coincidental. Last month, Second Life bluesman Von Johin signed a record deal in what’s believed to be the first virtual musician to break into the real-life mainstream.

Coca-Cola was among the companies that made a strong entrance into Second Life during the first wave of corporate marketing with a “virtual thirst” campaign. However in recent months, the company has stepped back its Second Life profile, taking the website offline.

Find more on Coca Cola on the MindBlizzard blog

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Thursday, October 09, 2008

Gibson Virtual Guitar Heroes

While browsing through the newsarchives in the business section of the Avastar, a popular magazine on Second Life, I came across an article on Gibson Guitars in Second Life. The article is dated July 19th 2008.

GIBSON guitars launched their new presence in Second Life with a party on Wednesday.

The famous corporation put on a spectacular music show at the event with Bob Welch of the band Fleetwood Mac appearing as Bobwelch Magic.

He was also joined Second Life artists in performing at the party. The land is in the shape of a guitar body and will be used to host a series of concerts in the months to come.

There are also plenty of freebies dotted around the land which includes a diner and various dance areas.

For those who have never heard of Gibson, here's some wiki-knowledge.

The Gibson Guitar Corporation, of Nashville, Tennessee, USA, is a manufacturer of acoustic and electric guitars. The company's most popular guitar, the Les Paul Standard, is a solid-body electric guitar. Gibson also owns and makes guitars under such brands as Epiphone, Kramer, Valley Arts, Tobias, Steinberger, and Kalamazoo. In addition to guitars, the company makes pianos through its Baldwin unit, Slingerland drums, as well as many accessory items. Company namesake Orville Gibson made mandolins in Kalamazoo, Michigan, in the late 1890s. Gibson used the same type of carved, arched tops in archtop acoustic guitars, and by the 1930s was also making flattop acoustic guitars and electric guitars. Charlie Christian, one of the first well-known electric guitarists, helped to popularize Gibson's electric guitars with his use of the ES-150 and ES-200. After being bought by the Norlin corporation in the late 1960s Gibson's quality and fortunes took a steep decline; by 1985 it was within three weeks of going out of business before it was bought by its present owners. Gibson Guitar is a privately held corporation (company stock is not publicly traded on a stock exchange), owned by chief executive officer Henry Juszkiewicz and president David H. (Dave) Berryman. [Wikipedia]

The funny thing is, I'd never registered this as a new build, which is mainly due to Aleister Kronos who blogged the Gibson presence in Second Life as early as February 2008. In early february the island was open to the public, but not finished at that time, which makes it vulnerable to criticism. This also shows in Al's blog:

"It is in part of the grid that has many new sims, and many more in the early stages of construction. This sim is no different. The main feature is a combination of terraforming and object creation that forms the shape of the Les Paul guitar body, complete with strings, controls and pickups. However, it looks like a first cut at the moment - a "build it and see what it looks like" experiment that may be developed into a more fully-fledged version in due course. One side of island has more practical public spaces - an acoustic stage, a diner/dance hall and an electric stage. However, it is immediately obvious when you arrive that the island is quite a way off being ready. There are various odd bits of things dotted about the sim, seemingly is varying stages of test.

As I've commented before, opening the doors too early is not necessarily a good idea, since you end up with non-reports like this one. I can't really make any fair comment on the sim because it is so incomplete - but that's because I am of a generous disposition. A meaner "me" might treat any open sim as public and hence fair game, and review it accordingly. It is better to get the sim to a state you are happy to consider complete before letting in the hordes."

Well, that was back in February, the island finally opened up in July. We're now a couple of months onward, so I'm a little late to check it out, but I'm curious to see what's out there now. The good this is that upon arrival there were actually quite a number of avatars flying about exploring the sim as well.

One side of the sim has a nice nostalgic American feel to it, it's major roads shaped like guitar necks lined with classic cars and typical American bars. Also Gibson Trolley will transport you if you so desire. Hether and thether you will see giant guitars standing out making it a bit of a jumble, but one the whole I like what I'm seeing.

The main venue is the Gibson store, and the great part about is, it offers you dozens and dozens of virtual Gibson guitars for free! This is merchandising. Lots of companies out there charge you a couple of Linden dollars for a lame t-shirt, this one gives away actually usefull stuff for free. They've understood that you won't make money selling small things, but have invested in building their brand and reputation. You also have the opportunity to win a Real Life Gibson.

"Over two-dozen “high prim” virtual Gibson models will be available throughout the Gibson Island only, allowing Second Life residents to own their dream guitar in this virtual world. The models will include Gibson’s Hound Dog Dobro, Hummingbird, SJ-200, Deluxe Songwriter, J-45, F5G mandolin, ES335 Heritage, 50th Anniversary Commemorative Explorer, Flying V, Les Paul Classic, Slash Inspired By Les Paul, John Lennon Signature Les Paul, Les Paul Robot, Les Paul Supreme, Double Cut Longhorn, SG Diablo, SG Angus Young Signature, SG Standard, and Les Paul Classic models." (Official Gibson website)

In the center of the island you'll find a clutter of things underneath another giant guitar neck with giant strings. One of these areas is the Gibson theatre in which you can view a number of presentation, among which a video about the production process of guitars.

There's a lot more to do and see, but as it is, this post is getting long enough. For a complete overview of stuff to do and see, visit the official Gibson Lifestyle page on Second Life here.

The island is surrounded by other islands, some in the early stages of development. I checked out one, a sim called Epiphony, which is also Gibson owned. I think this points out that Gibson's presence in Second Life has been a success sofar and they are expanding and investing in building a community.


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Wednesday, October 08, 2008

French Boulanger could use a Rebake in Second Life

Yesterday I received news that a new company had opened up shop in Second Life. And this time it really is shop, as not merely opening up a presence, but opening up a retail point. Today I went in for a visit. The shop we're talking about is a French Multimedia and Electronics store named Boulanger.

The island is a single, isolated one, not connected to the popular mainland shopping areas, so probably they're not counting on casual passersby noticing the shop while strolling through busy mainland malls where I had expected it to be. When we look at the build, it's of pretty good design and quality, better than that of most mainland stores, but when it comes to sales, it's all about content.

Dancing on the Ceiling

Upon arrival I see the usual jumble outside. Again, it is of good quality, but you'ld expect nothing less from a build which has been done by IBM. However, I was under the impression I came to shop, so I wasn't really dressed up to go racing in VW Beetles, flying helicopters and do a Lionel Ritchie kind of Dancing on the Ceiling. If I was looking for virtual entertainment, I'd probably do it elsewhere (unless they would come up with a very good mixed reality mix, but no festivities were going on)

Let's have a look at the aims of this build.

The French retail company Boulanger announced today the opening of a store in Second Life with development and planning help from IBM Research and Global Business Services. The goal is to complement Boulanger's physical stores and website with an additional distribution channel and additional services. Initially the build allows users to view and interact with Boulanger objects in a familiar context, click to be taken to the purchase page on a website, watch service and repair videos, or talk directly to a maintenance aide.

IBM says it had two objectives in the build: "develop a community aspect through the 3D universe and propose new services (configuration of kitchen, cooking lessons, guides, etc.) -- while integrating the three complementary distribution channels."

So far retail hasn't really taken off as a use for virtual worlds, particularly with big pricetag items like Boulanger's specialties of "leisure, multimedia and households products." The relatively high barrier to entry for Second Life (I had to download a new version after clicking on the SLURL from the press release) doesn't help much either.

Full story on Virtual World News.

True, I'd been entering Second Life for the past months with an outdated SL client, the version released in march 2008 and had been able to hover around without forced updates uptill now. This due to the fact that the previous latest client had problems with several graphical cards. Fortunately, this latest version worked fine though.

Real Life Replica

When looking at the general build and layout of the island it is very real-life-ish in look and feel, and the last of the above pictures shows a rotating cube displaying the locations of the Real Life Boulanger stores. Time to head on to the main venue.

The frustrating thing was, it had closed doors. I had a hard time finding a way in, which I believe should not be part of the proposed new services. The store itself looked rather empty. Rather than that it was actually empty, it also felt empty.

Let's be honest, the store just opened up. It will take some time to make stuff available through this sales channel, so maybe that issue will be cleared. Nonetheless, I doubt if it will be a profitable saleschannel in the near future. Truth is, Virtual Worlds like Second Life are still a niche market, especially when you only focus on the French speaking world.

Let's get down to business

At one point in the main venue, a gigantic layout of one of their real life stores hovered, and this is where a Business Case could have been made for operating an outfit in a Virtual World.

I would have very much appreciated an island with no social decoration, no immersive experience helicopters and just a naked empty store if it would have been a clear training and R&D site. What I mean is this:

If you build huge real life store with tons of products it takes a massive amount of design and calculation to sort out what the best routes are. Where do you place your products, how wide should the aisles be. How do you position your products. Which ones do you single out and promote to your shoppers.

With IBM's knowledge and expertise to do tracking & tracing in Second Life (see Wimbledon for instance) they could have made the build an experiment in logistics. They could have build a user testsite in which they could track customers to see where they would be going first. To see what the patterns arewhich customers are walking through a store of this size, or what the best logistic routes would be for employees to refill shelves with products from the storage in order to improve planning, logistics and real life sales.


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Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Daletto World

Hello! I'm ak.

First, I'd like to thank to MindBlizzard for inviting me. I'm glad to write about Services, Developers and Trends about Virtual Worlds here in Japan (in Korea and China, maybe).

There are a number of virtual world services which have started here in Japan. One interesting trend is that Video Game Developers are trying to create their own worlds. XBOX live has been getting more social and SONY is testing HOME. Therefore it might be quite natural that others are following. One example is CAPCOM. CAPCOM is a video game developer and famous for "Residents Evil"/"Rockman".

Capcom Co., Ltd. is a leading Japanese international developer and publisher of video games headquartered in Osaka, Japan. It was founded in 1979 as Japan Capsule Computers, a company devoted to the manufacturing and distribution of electronic game machines.

Over the years, Capcom has created some of the biggest and longest running franchises in video gaming history. The company released their first arcade game in 1984: Vulgus. Their early games were mostly arcade games such as the scrolling shooter 1942. [Wikipedia]

One of their latest projects is the launch of "Daletto World". "Daletto World" is a browser based world using ActiveX components. You can walk around the world, enjoy chatting, but can't change position/angle of camera, can't create something like buildings or clothing.

Several real stores put their virtual stores on "Dalette World". "BEAMS", a popular clothing store in the real world has their own store selling shirts/pants for avatars.

TSUTAYA, a chain of DVD rental stores, has their virtual store, too. At the store, you can search DVDs and make a purchase.

I'm a little bit disappointed because there's no Residents Evil or Rockman in "Daletto World". CAPCOM seems to attract non-game-users via their own world.

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Saturday, October 04, 2008

Looking for Phat Cash

In august 2007 I blogged about Phat Cat's Jazz club in Second Life, being one of the most popular venues at the time. They have remained in the top 10 of most popular venues continuously. On october 1st the island went up for sale on eBay.

According to the Phat Cat's Jazz Club website this sale is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Jody Smith (Jody Huet in Second Life) says:

"The sale provides a chance for new owners to administer and steward one of the most popular online destinations that has ever existed. Interested buyers should read the Terms and Conditions of the sale, and visit eBay starting on October 1, 2008 to place their bids."

No doubt it will be good fun to host one of the most popular places in Second Life, but I doubt Jody will be putting 'the chance to play virtual CEO' up for grabs and is undoubtedly looking for Phat Cash. Last year we've seen a successfull sale of Stroker Serpentine's Amsterdam (in his 2nd attempt)

Currently the meter stops at $2.500, which is nowhere near the price Stroker's Amsterdam was sold at ($50,000). It will be very interesting to watch the auction develop and see if we can put some value to the things we so lovingly create in Second Life.

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Friday, September 26, 2008

Twones: Something new or yet another me2?

It's that time of year again... No, it's not yet Christmas, but september has been a blast with the Virtual Worlds Conference & Expo, TechCrunch Top50, PICNIC 08, EmTech and one on Digital Content Distribution all in one month. No wonder one or two new and exciting startups get overlooked.

Today I came across yet another new startup: Twones, which just went into private Beta. People say it's cool, so let's have a look.

Twones is a music service lets you store, organize, find & share music played all over the web (tracking many services, see image above) or on your computer (like iTunes) to one single point of access. Twones ties all music together and let's you share your taste with others in its most direct way.

It basically works in 4 steps:

  1. Track
  2. Store
  3. Socialize
  4. Discover

I'm not much of a music freak myself, well yeah, I'm an 80's fetishist, but I usually play CD's and don't listen online to music. I've tried Last.FM, it didn't bring me what I needed. So I'll pass on this one as there are enough other lifestreams and aggregators to follow, so for me, Twones is just another Me2 site whcih yet again fails to crack the code. If you are a music lover and use all sorts of media sites you might still wanna check it out.

The good new is that it is yet another Dutch startup like the übercool Project E, which I blogged yesterday.

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Monday, March 24, 2008

Basic Belgian Business Builds

Up till now I haven't seen much Businesswise activity from the Belgians in Second Life, although there is a pretty active Belgian community present in Second Life, which shows in a pretty large amount of Belgian cities to be recreated in Second Life; We've got several Brussels / Bruxelles sims, Brugge, Gent etcetera. What I'm told though is that most attention still goes to entertainment and mature content.

One of the first Belgian companies to rez was Dutch / Belgian radio station Q-Music (which has already left Second Life again). A second was telecom provider Belgacom and in november 2007 there was the Keytrade bank (which I blogged just before the weekend). When I published the updated version of the RL Brand Directory though, I was prompted with a number of Belgian firms on the grid. Most of these aren't on dedicated sims, so it's no wonder I haven't spotted them.

First of these firms are on the bordering sims Chopin and Beethoven, and are build by Metapartners.

MetaPartners NV currently owns 15 islands in Second Life®, making it the largest sim owner in Belgium: Beethoven, (home to Packaging & Converting Essentials), Grieg (home to MetaPartners itself), Chopin (home to UniPartners) as well as Vivaldi Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter, which are the R&D areas of UniPartners. Other islands are Albinoni, Bizet, Bach, Mozart, Verdi, Haydn, Ravel and Brahms.

The companies in question are Packaging & Converting Essentials - which deal in... guess what: Packaging and Converting -

Packaging & Converting Essentials has been using Second Life® for almost a year now as an additional communications tool to its RSS feeds, newsletters and website and has expanded its already global reach to a virtual environment, where residents can read the newsheadlines and access the
website directly.

and the second one, UniPartners, is an IT Service provider.

UniPartners NV, with over 80 IT specialists, uses the virtual world as a recruitment area, a meeting place for its own employees, a place for staff meetings, trainings and conferences. In addition to that, UniPartners NV also has a competence and R&D center.

To be honest, I wasn't really impressed when I visited the sims. It's all pretty basic. Here are a few snapshots:

There are a few other Beglian firms I intend to visit, I hope they'll be more like the Keytrade and Belgacom builds than these firms who probably don't have a clue to what the potential of virtual worlds can do for these companies.

SLURL Unipartners:

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Saturday, March 22, 2008

Cantiere SugarMusic

Yesterday I wrote I'd stay out of SL for the Easter holidays, but as the kids are asleep and Mrs. V. is out of the house, I couldn't help myself. Entering SL and skimming the map, I came across a heavy load of Italian sims. One stood out, as it wasn't called Genova, Torino or Milano, but carried the very Italian sounding name (not) "Sugar Music Land". What I could figure from the Italian Sugarmusic website wasn't much, as it was all Italiano. A little digging brought me to the mothercompany, Gruppo Sugarmusic from Spain.

Although it is a Spanish firm, it is a publishing house for Italian music with a wide range of classical publications, but also big names like Andrea Bocelli. A little history:

Sugarmusic was founded with the name Edizioni Suvini Zerboni in 1907. At first specialized in the management of some important Milan theaters, the company then looked to pop music signing some of Italy 's most representative authors. In 1948, when Mr. Paolo Giordani passed away, Mr. Ladislao Sugar became the only owner of Edizioni Suvini Zerboni. Since then, the company business never stopped, achieving one success after the other.

Sugarmusic's current activities mainly focus on scouting young talents and helping them grow: Negramaro, born and bred in the label, have become Italy 's best selling act between 2005 and 2006 and had 9 songs pitched in Alessadro
D'Alatri's movie “La Febbre”.

Sugarmusic, holding of the Sugar Group, proudly administers a 60.000 titles catalogue and its rights acquiring and protection policy is carried on bearing in mind the quick progress of the digital era.

Okay, now let's have a look at the build, which is being performed by the folks of SL Consulting, and looks pretty neat. The build isn't finished yet. I couldn't enter the parcels, but I could fly over at 60 meters. The main venue is a pyramid and several walkways lead to smaller buildings, and a stage.

There were a number of things I couldn't explain. What is the enormous spiralling platform doing there? Another tyhing is that there were I few buildings on the side of the sim that looked totally out of place. As it isn't finished yet, I can't tell which way this sim is going to go, but from a building point of view it looks pretty decent.


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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

The Starfish and the Spider

Heliview organised a web 2.0 seminar today at the Jaarbeurs in Utrecht, titled "From Web 2.0 to Enterprise 2.0" It's keynote speaker was Rod Beckstrom, author of the Starfish and the Spider.

Below is the presentation he did at the Next Web Conference, which is pretty much the same story and same slideshow. Sit down and enjoy. It's good stuff.

Part 1: The Starfish and the Spider

Part 2: Geronimoooooooo!

Part 3: From centralized to decentralized business

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Saturday, August 25, 2007

Phat's Vibe

Second Life is a rich environment for shared experiences. One of these experiences is listening to music and dancing together with your friends, enjoying the music and the vibe. No wonder there are tons of disco's and bars playing (live) music. What's the general SL taste?

Not the techno trance you'd expect, but the slowdance to classic songs like "over the rainbow" at Phat Cat's danceclub is the current favorite. The Phat Land sim stands firmly at the top of Tateru Nino's Headcount list with an estimated weekly average of 25.000 visitors!

But dancing isn't the only crowddrawer at Phatland. Aside from just being a place to dance, almost half the sim (island) is filled with shops and boutiques so everyone can find their perfect ballroom attire and dance in style. This is serving the crowd, providing the tools at the spot.


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Thursday, August 09, 2007

EMI / Virgin and more Japanese Stuff

Al 'superscooper' Kronos and I have made several trips to the Asian parts of Second Life, as we both look forward to welcoming millions of new residents bringing new culture and business to Second Life.

A major new arrival is EMI music / Virgin music Japan which is a hovering platform with two piers filled with small booths where recommended artists are shown and a gallery in the main building.
More can be found on Al's blog in this post


Then there's my obsession with Suntory. I've visited this sim several times before and first recorded that it laid bare for two months, then saw some first designs appear, then something more and now something else completely.

It doesn't look corporate anymore, but it's certainly becoming a nice build

Just across the sim border there's Intelligence, and on the other side there's a tower branded Color Chips, a Japanese ISP. I'm not sure what these companies are all about, maybe our Japanese readers at Second Life Watch 2 or Metaverse Japan would be kind enough to comment...

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Monday, April 30, 2007

Sony BMG

The Electric Sheep Company brings (well... brought a while ago) another big brand into Second Life. This time it's Sony BMG that's being immersed by the ESCapists. This time I'm impressed. The architecture is great and is slowly straying away from RL gravity rules.

The grand opening was October 19th, 2006 and featured a simulcast event with Ben Folds. Aside from the usual freebees (which in this case are about L$ 100) you can download music here as well.
The only problem with this sim is, is that it's called Media. It took me a while to find it. It certainly doesn't show right off that it's a Sony BMG thingy.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Q is good for you...

...were the words spoken to me by the sim robot-greeter.
This Dutch / Belgian sim looks a bit chaotic with a thousand an one things to do. There's the Q-Music dance club, the Q-Music radio station, rental appartments and a funpark with pool, dodgem cars and a Ferris wheel. Certainly there's enough to provide entertainment for visitors.

Nice detail are the neon palm trees that are spread throughout the sim.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007


When entering the BNN (Bart's News Network, a Dutch television company) sim one walks up to a theatre. At first I thought the thing to be rather dark and depressing, but after taking some distance, you can see it's a giant pick-up player.

Although I will have a hard time explaining what a pick-up player is to my 3 year old daughter, I think it's quite an original approach that will invoke historic sentiments.


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