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Microsoft, Kraft Foods Enter Second Life; Starwood Hotels Returns

Looks like Microsoft will announce its arrival into Second Life tomorrow. Kraft Foods entered the world earlier this week with a virtual supermarket. And Starwood Hotels, which made a big splash last year by prototyping one of its upcoming hotels in-world, is back with the final product.

Looks like Microsoft will announce its arrival into Second Life tomorrow. Kraft Foods entered the world earlier this week with a virtual supermarket. And Starwood Hotels, which made a big splash last year by prototyping one of its upcoming hotels in-world, is back with the final product.

I expect to know more about all three of these things over the next couple of days, and I'll pass the word here when I do. But here's what I know now"

Microsoft: The Microsoft presence in Second Life is apparently being orchestrated by Millions of Us, on of two major consultancies that help big real-world companies get into Second Life. The launch is 6 pm PDT Thursday. To find out about it, join the group "Visual Studio" in Second Life -- my keen journalistic instincts tell me that means that Millions isn't working for all of Microsoft, but rather solely for the Visual Studio group.

Millions linked to this YouTube video tour of "Visual Studio Island." It's 1 minute, 21 seconds long.

Millions of Us doesn't seem to have a press contact on its Web site. I sent an e-mail to contact_@millionsofus.com just now, but you all know how well those "contact" mail drops work on corporate Web site. Hey, Millions of Us, if you're reading this, e-mail me at mwagner@cmp.com.

Kraft: Phil's Supermarket in Second Life is a project being done by Kraft in conjunction with celebrity foodie Phil Limpert. He's food editor for the NBC Today Show, runs the Supermarket Guru Web site, and does a weekly broadcast about food on Sirius Radio.

The supermarket is a reproduction of a real-world food emporium. They'll be holding discussion groups, lectures, have food experts available in-world to answer questions, and they'll even have in-world cooking contests for would-be celebrity chefs, Limpert said. Kraft is doing it to build brand awareness.

Starwood: The hotel chain put up a prototype of its upcoming aloft luxury hotel in Second Life last year, and asked users -- known in Second Life jargon as "residents" -- for ideas on changes to the design. Later, they took down the virtual hotel. Now they're back. They're going to leave the hotel in place, a little while so we can all admire it, and then tear it down and donate the server space -- known in Second Life jargon as "land" -- to whoever comes up with the best idea for what to do with it; they're holding a contest for ideas now.

When you talk to experts about possible business uses for virtual worlds, this is precisely one of the things they talk about: Collaborating on, and discussing, some three-dimensional thing being designed for the real world, such as a building or a car. So it'll be interesting to see how one of the most visible examples of that kind of 3-D collaboration worked out.

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Mary E. Shacklett, President of Transworld Data
James M. Connolly, Contributing Editor and Writer