M Linden put up this predictive post at the official Second Life blog on the potential direction of Second Life, here's my take:
When I set my draw distance out 10 years and envision Second Life then, here is what I see:
Everyone has an avatar. Avatars have the ability to travel across virtual worlds, maintaining their unique identity (and inventory) as they go. Some are stunningly vivid fantasy avatars and others are hyper-real. You express yourselves through your avatar using interfaces we weren't able to imagine in 2010.
Actually I'm not so sure about that. Unless you consider a photography of my real life face being my "avatar" (avatar is not necessarily 3D in nature) to represent me in non-physical form. In this case, everyone already has an "avatar". As for the interfaces part: no doubt about it. Especially if Microsoft gets involved as they can't seem to leave a good interface alone. Windows Vista to 7 is a shock that they didn't radically change the UI between versions. But then again, 7 is just Vista that's had the garbage gutted out.

Second Life is galactic. With a massive influx of new Residents, Second Life becomes a collection of interconnected (and independent) worlds' some terrestrial, some extra-terrestrial. In terrestrial terms, Second Life grows 10x from being the 170th largest country in the world to the 134th (as measured by landmass) right between Denmark and Switzerland.
True. Just as in the universe there are a bazillion galaxies. all on their own, worlds unto themselves, disconnected in any way. Sure. the SL grid might connect to Open grid and so on. But until SL grid can connect to IMVU and Habbo Hotel and Barbie World and all the rest - uh-uh. It's partly about the technology being able to mesh, but it's also partly to do with who controls what, intellectual properties, licensing and in the end: money. Though I get what you mean.
SLHD blurs the distinction between real and virtual. New tools and capabilities for content creation and animation together with enhanced graphics and multi-sensory rendering enable SLHD (Second Life in High Definition) to blur the distinction between real and virtual. You pet a chicken and feel the smooth texture of its feathers. You bend down to smell a rose and, well, you smell a rose.
I get that now. At least: visually. Though I think I get the gist of what you are saying here. But this is true for all computer technologies, not just SL.
We are able to explore the edge of possibility. Combining SLHD with innovations in display technology gives us powerful and flexible new augmented- and mixed-reality environments that enable us to explore the edge of possibility that fascinating edge between virtual and real. Walls in your office become portals to the metaverse. Imagine the possibilities for information visualization.
I concur. However a couple caveats apply: technology doesn't stand still. What will Linden Lab be like 5 or ten years from now. How will LL's product hold-up? Technology, like time stands still for no one. The powerhouse of Microsoft is quaking in their boots right now because they are no longer as powerful the leader they once were. The three "kings" (Microsoft, Adobe and Google) are constantly fighting it out. Where is IBM now?

And newer technology, no matter how good it is has to arrive at the right place at the right time. Compare Blue Mars to Second Life. Which is better? Moot question. Which is more popular and mature and established?

Blue-ray DVD for example will take-off as a data-based format, but not for movies because it's too late. Download and streaming is the new wave of the future with Tivo boxes, Netflix boxes and Apple TV boxes taking content from the Internet and playing it in HD on your 5000-inch television. Blue-ray is too late to the game to really take-off.

SL is there now and Blue Mars is late. It is up to Linden Research to evolve SL to keep it current and maintain its presence. This requires the changes you are implementing now - good for you. Sorry that the emotionally charged users are so vitriolic toward you because they cannot see this requirement.
The walls come down early in the second decade. Second Life quickly spreads beyond the walled garden of 2009. APIs connect it to commonly-used social utilities. It's available on mobile devices. It's part of real life experiences. All together, this makes Second Life a natural, practical extension and enhancement of everyday life. Imagine you are out shopping one day. You see a great dining table in a real life store and scan it with your mobile device. Moments later it appears in the dining room of your Second Life home visible on your mobile device, projectable on the wall of the store.
You see it in context but you're still not sure it's right so you check your friend list to see who might be available to offer a second opinion. You send an invite and your best friend pops in, looks at it and gives you two thumbs up. You still have reservations. Later in the evening, you visit your Second Life home again to see how the table looks. You love it. With a few clicks, you purchase it and arrange for delivery to your real life home.
I can see this. And I like what I see. Let's step back to the "galactic" analogy. Get that working right and this will surely follow!
The Second Life economy becomes meaningful among real world economies. The Second Life economy -- powered by a robust marketplace, a stable Linden Dollar and superb tools for content creation, management, protection, sharing and consumption continues its high double-digit growth -- and zooms from number 175 to number 150 among world economies (as measured by GDP). The availability of a robust and secure global marketplace gives people in emerging economies education and income-earning opportunities they don't have domestically.
I hope so. But you'll have to really make the words "Second L:ife" a bit less cartoonist and a bit more "serious". Have you any idea what kind of reactions I get from my boss and co-workers when I say we should consider "Second Life" as a mean for delivering our product (we are a training company that currently uses WebEx webinar format)?

It sounds too much like 1) a game, 2) a play thing 3) A place to waste time 4) a game.

Find a good "corporate-sounding" name. Create a grid just for that (no, not the enterprise thing you have now - but a whole grid - like the teen grid, but for enterprise - and linked to the main in a one-way fashion - into the main, but not back into the enterprise) and offer a considerably less expensive way to enter for small companies (easy to sell my boss of $5,000 over $50,000 - get it?)

Right now all I have to pitch to my boss is: $50k for the enterprise thing (way over budget!) or "main gris with all the porno crap too easily accessible for $5k a month" (Affordable, but not enough "control against what we don't want to be associated with").

When you do that - then the grid and SL technology will be seriously considered for business use by the so-hos and small companies- and that's when it becomes a tidal-wave in the business community and the idea really spreads. Right now you are limiting yourself to the fortune-1000.
Second Life becomes a standard in business, education and government. All sizes of companies use Second Life as their preferred collaboration, simulation and learning tool to connect with customers, suppliers and employees all over the world. Universities funnel expansion funds into the virtual world, eschewing expensive real world building projects in favor of Second Life. Essential government services are delivered virtually."

See my previous comment and mark my words here and now. Business will not take SL seriously until you overcome the things I have mentioned. Though ten years is a long time, so yeah, I can see it happening eventually.

Provided someone else doesn't come along under the radar and take that business away from you - and becomes the "defacto-standard" virtual world for business and play.

(Via Second Life Blogs: Features: Happy New Year! Looking Back...Looking Ahead.)