Parks Associates Blog

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Virtualization = real money?

We had a really curious experience the other day with a virtual hotel concierge! Instead of posting a live body behind the desk, the hotel in which we were staying had a flat-screen television behind the desk with a video feed. On the screen was the concierge, working in a remote office. If you had a request for her, she would detect your presence with the camera in the hotel and begin a dialogue. To provide you with information, she could send a print command, and the information would appear at the printer at the concierge desk. The kicker of this experience? We found out that she was working from home! She had designed her home office to look just like a hotel office, complete with her uniform and the hotel's name in a plaque on the wall.

This is not just an outlying example of where the notion of "virtual presence" is being felt. Certainly, improvements to videoconferencing are one example where collaboration can now occur without business travel. Cisco Systems, for example, touts quite strongly its Telepresence solution for allowing a more highly-interactive and collaborative environment among colleagues, even when they're not in the same room.

At the same time, given the high level of interest in virtualization as it has applied to the gaming industry (Second Life, for example) and the online world (wikis, as one example), there is strong interest among players in both network infrastructure and in end-user platforms in evaluating the opportunities in this space. We think that virtualization in the customer support area could be one interesting opportunity for companies who regularly deal with a good many customer service calls. Given the intelligence that is being built into today's home networking, IT, and consumer electronics equipment, a virtual customer service agent that can run some automatic diagnostics and send suggestions for quick fixes or even new product purchases may put us one step closer to a full-fledged market for the trusted digital home advisor services that we've discussed on a few blogs.

It's definitely an area to watch, and perhaps yet one more example of where the lessons learned in the gaming business (on top of digital distribution and the monetization of virtual assets) may also translate into big business for the rest of the digital lifestyles value chain members.

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