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IBM is packing chairman and CEO Sam Palmisano off to Second Life.

Yes, the CEO of the world's most venerable technology company faces the prospect of rubbing virtual shoulders with middle-aged men pretending to be teenage girls, deranged Big Brother contestants, and the ubiquitous giant furry penises.

Of course, that's not the plan as such.

According to Reuters, which of course has its own Second Life bureau, Palmisano will be blowing into the virtual world for a "town hall" meeting with some 7,000 Chinese employees and to "speak with the more than 250 IBM employees on one of the company's virtual islands".

Big Blue has the biggest Second Life presence of any real Fortune 500 company, apparently. In fact, we reported earlier this year on how IBM is using the digital world of Second Life as an "an on-screen virtual analogue of a business".

But let's face it. Palmisano is a man with a fierce and questioning intellect. He's bound to want to take a late night walk from the virtual hotel his executive team have booked him into and get a grip on just what the commercial opportunities there are in Second Life. Let's just hope they don't get a grip on Sam.

And we've got to ask the question - what sort of IBM employees are marooned on a virtual island? Is this a reward for a lifetime of hard graft? A strange virtual incentives plan? Or is it some sort of corporate penal colony. Or worse, a corporate furry penile colony? ®

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