IT managers should begin experimenting with Second Life in business today as the collaboration tool is expected to become as popular as e-mail within five years, a report has said.
Developers can release near-final designs of products to a limited group of external users and solicit feedback before starting manufacturing, for example.
This can become important for architects, engineers and product designers, who use Cad models or visualisation systems to explore or create projects, said Forrester.
The Getting Work Done in Virtual Worlds report from Forrester argues that businesses should begin following the example of Starwood Hotels, which used Second Life to trial new rooms, and Princeton University, which has used it to manage dispersed teams working on a single project.
The report found that businesses are still reluctant to embrace virtual worlds and view them as a frivolous application. Virtual worlds can use large amounts of bandwidth, which is likely to hang and require reboots, said Forrester.
To minimise challenges, Forrester recommends that companies begin experimenting with a virtual worlds with low-level applications and with clearly defined usage policies.