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The top 8 Second Life virtual businesses

Second Life showrooms promote tech firms

H&R Block

The wood floors at H&R Block Island (search for "HR Block" on Second Life) are a subtle reminder: This is a top-tier financial consulting portal, modelled after the 12,000 office locations worldwide.

Despite the stuffy decor, there is an interesting point-of-sale angle. For $100 Linden (the currency in Second Life, which is about £35), you can buy the new Tango online tax preparation software. No discount, though - that was the same price offered on the H&R Block site until a "limited-time offer" was instituted.

The bundle includes access to virtual scooters, dance shoes, a T-shirt and other paraphernalia. Of course, the real transaction takes place on the web, where you type in an access code.

Unlike Dell Island, where you can build a virtual PC and then buy it online, H&R Block seems to want to conduct real business in Second Life, perhaps as a proof-of-concept. Now that's an innovative spirit!

Best Buy Geek Squad

Geeks unite! At Geek Squad Island, the most impressive offering - apart from the bumper car ride that's modelled after the original Geek Squad vehicles - is deep technical advice.

Real-world employees keep regular hours from 6pm to 3am and will chat about any topic. I asked about video card support for DX10 games and which USB keydrives work for ReadyBoost, and an agent knew the answers immediately.

According to Diana Garrett, a Geek Squad spokeswoman (and my tour guide), employees will consult for free until a customer needs to buy a product - for that, they have to call or email.

There are no giveaways, though, and the place is dead during non-working hours.

John Brandon is a freelance writer and book author who worked as an IT manager for 10 years.

www.computerworld.com


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