This holiday season, our ZDNet experts are more than happy to provide you with the very best lists of tech gear and gadgets to stuff your stockings with such as laptop computers, netbooks, digital cameras, smartphones and HDTVs. All of which give you useful, well-researched and practical advice on how to spend your money. After all, we're still in a recovering economy and most of us have to be really careful how we lay out our cold, hard cash.
But what if you have money to burn? What if price is no object? What if you "has opulence", so to speak? With that in mind, I've prepared a holiday gift guide for the Gateses, the Ellisons, the Buffetts, the Abramoviches, the Slims and any other aspiring Bond Villains reading Tech Broiler.
Where's the super-rich without their personal transportation? Many ultra-wealthy citizens prefer to drive or be driven to their destinations in a low-key fashion, choosing to avoid recognition or to attract attention. The late Sam Walton, owner of the Wal-Mart chain, was known for his love of nondescript, blue collar cars such as old Ford pickup trucks. Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer was known for driving old station wagons and older model Lincolns.
The truly opulent, however, love to flaunt their wealth, and they love to enjoy it. Love the speed? Don't care what the heck it costs? Then look no further than Lamborghini's Murcielago SV, which has a top speed of 213Mph, can do zero to sixty in under three seconds, has a limited production run of 350 cars and a $450,000 price tag.
Is the Lambo too pedestrian? Too ghetto? Then by all means, have a look at the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport, the Top Gear poster child for ultimate speed and ultimate price. This 16-cylinder, 8.0 Liter, quad turbocharged 1200 horsepower untamed animal of a sports car is capable of achieving a mind-blowing 267Mph.
There's a catch though -- you can only achieve that speed on Volkswagen's official test track, who'll provide you with a special key for unlocking that extra horsepower when you come to visit. But if you're super-rich, you can probably afford to build your own 20-mile racetrack to max the car out on, and it won't bother you that the car itself is a mere $2,700,000.
Maybe the Bugatti isn't dangerous enough. Perhaps a car is just too... cramped. You crave danger, excitement, the open air, and want to walk away from your vehicle with messy underwear. No problem, what you want is a motorcycle. But not just any motorcycle.
For those super-rich that also possess a death wish, you want a Marine Turbine Technologies Superbike -- which is powered by a gas turbine, kerosene-fueled jet engine. With a top speed of 227 miles per hour, it's the fastest motorcycle in the entire world, and every single one is hand-built and unique.
At $150,000 it's also one of the most expensive motorcycles in existence as well, claiming such gearhead celebs as Jay Leno as customers, who has been quoted as saying that riding the bike was like having the "Hand of God" pushing him.
There are many ultra-wealthy people who fly commercial, in First Class. But you're opulent, remember?
The benchmark state-of-the-art luxury private jet is the Gulfstream g650. With a huge, spacious cabin, the g650 has every single amenity that you can think of and get you there in style. Each aircraft is built to custom specifications, and has a maximum fueled range of 7,000 miles.
The g650 is also the fastest private jet that you can currently buy, with a maximum speed of just under the speed of sound. You'll be able to fly with 8 of your closest family and friends, provided you employ 4 crew members as well. That really shouldn't concern you since the plane itself is a cool $58-$65 million.
But maybe flying just under supersonic isn't fast enough. You want to get there faster. There aren't any vintage Concordes on the market (yet) for refurbishing, but you can have the next best thing -- a private Supersonic Business Jet.
Well, get in line. You'll have to call Aerion Corporation, which is taking orders for its Mach
1.6-capable private jet with near-supersonic long range supercruise capability. It's got all the luxury goodies of the g650, but needle-shaped plane is a bit more cramped. You won't care, because you'll be able to get from Chicago Midway to London Heathrow in just under six hours.
Of course, the plane won't be delivered to its first customer until around 2014 or 2016, and it will set you back about $80 million not including staff and operating expenses and support infrastructure, but hey, you're opulent, right?
If you want to buy a supersonic aircraft NOW, you'll need to seek out the countries of the former Soviet Union. During a credit crunch, from time to time they've been known to unload vintage MiG-21 and modern Su-27 Mach 2-capable fighter aircraft from anywhere between $5 and $15 million each.
That's a bargain, when you consider the price of the luxury jets above. Of course, you'll have to fly it yourself, you'll need to make probably two to three in-air fuel stops to fly any serious distance, and they burn anywhere between 1,000 to 2,000 gallons of fuel an hour, but that's peanuts, right? You has OPULENCE.
Opulent aircraft will get you to where you want to go, but no self-respecting Bond Villain or ultra-rich person would be without a yacht. But not just any yacht, you want something massive, imposing, a home away from home on the water. Comfy, and yet terrifying to anyone who gets in your way. You want to rule the seas.
There are plenty of standard multi-million-dollar yachts that you can buy. Even ones that cost tens of millions. But I'm not talking about that kind of boat, I'm talking about the type of yacht that would make Emilio Largo get an inferiority complex.
Back in the 1980's, big, disgustingly expensive yacht meant Khashoggi-style. In those days, his 281-foot yacht set records for opulence (and was actually used as a Bond Villain boat in the re-make of Thunderball) but from there they just got bigger. They eventually passed the 350-foot mark, and then 400, and finally 500.
Not do be outdone by the sheiks, In 2009 Russian billionaire and oil magnate Roman Abramovich launched the Blohm & Voss-built Eclipse, his 557-foot megayacht (his biggest of three huge boats) equipped with helipad, bullet-proof and armor-plated windows, a German-designed missile defense system and even a "laser-powered anti-paparazzi shield" which can scramble any camera or electronic equipment from a distance.
Would you believe he had a pool of sharks with frickkin' lasers installed in it as well? Probably not, but we do know that the estimated $800 million-plus behemoth of the sea has its own miniature submarine.
Opulent Space Travel
I know what you're thinking, you don't want to be tied down to terrestrial travel. Understandable. Unfortunately, the limits of technology and the current level of maturity of the private space industry prevents you from has hundred mile high club with your mail-order supermodel girlfriend.
If you're willing to wait, you can sign up for Sir Richard Branson's Virgin Galactic, which will be offering suborbital space rides from $200,000 and up. But it will be several years before the service is operational, and while incredibly exciting, the flights will be short, lasting less than an hour.
And if the short ride wasn't enough of an indignity, you'll have to share your ride with simple millionaire hoi polloi. So if you're truly opulent, like Canonical's Mark Shuttleworth, you'll want to step in front of the line and have a private vacation in space.
In 2002, Shuttleworth climbed aboard the Russian Soyuz TM-34 mission, and spent eight days at the International Space Station participating in experiments, after undergoing a year of training and preparation at the Baikonur Cosmodrome. The cost? A mere $20 Million.
Eventually, you'll need to come down to Earth. And when you do, you'll need a place to stay, a place to call home.
Of course, money being no object, you can build any palace you like. But then you'd be just like Bill Gates with his gigantic high-tech mansion in Medina, Washington or Larry Ellison with his California reproduction of a feudal Japanese castle. How quaint. How lowbrow. How uncreative.
No, what you want is something truly exclusive. How about a man-made island in Dubai? Or any number of existing natural islands in the South Pacific, where you can build your own airstrip and private space launch facilities. Now we're talking. Just find yourself a little person to be your waiter and valet, and you can be just like Francisco Scaramanga.
Of course, the problem with large, secure compounds in major metropolitan areas like Bill and Larry's or even private islands is that people know you are there. They can see you from Google Earth, and they can fly over you. That can be really, really annoying.
No, what you really want is a subterranean house. Specifically, an abandoned Atlas, Titan or Minuteman III nuclear missile base. These spaces are truly unique -- they're built to survive a nuclear holocaust, are extremely efficient to operate, and they are absolutely cavernous.
Even if you just end up picking one of these properties up to re-fit as a vacation cottage, just think of the fun of being 200 feet underground in the middle of nowhere, where nobody is going to come and bother you, or even know where to look for you.
Awesome, right? You can build a horse ranch at ground level with a modest-looking farmhouse at the top, with a massive lair below. And if you fix the launch bay doors, you can fly your helicopter straight out of it.
Oh, and don't forget the bedding. The bedding is really important. You can't get a decent night's sleep on anything less than a $50,000 mattress.
No matter how rich you are, life gets pretty boring if not annoying if you have to deal with people. As companions, people basically suck. As an opulent person, what you want is a pet. But not just any pet.
No, you want a pet that befits your status in life, one that is truly unique. What you want is a genetically-engineered, glow-in-the-dark cat. And where can you get one of these luminescent felines? Why, from Korea.
Apparently, the Korean scientists at Gyeongsang National University have figured out how to isolate the sequence of genes that turn on a red fluorescent protein in a cat's hair. So far, no price has been set, and none of these experimental cats have been offered for sale, but that's no problem for you, right?
Okay, maybe glowing cats are kind of weird. You're clearly a bit more down to earth, a sentimental type. I completely understand. Perhaps you can't get over the fact that your poodle or sweet tabby died recently. If you're super rich, pet mortality is no problem whatsoever -- you just simply clone it from its original DNA, provided you have stored samples of its genetic material.
Of course, pet cloning in the United States has been a bit of a problem due to its controversial nature, and every venture here trying to make a business out of it has failed, but that's not gonna stop you, right? You can still get it done, but you gotta go to -- you guessed it, the Koreans! Just give RNL Bio some of Fido's DNA, and they'll get to work. Does it bother you that it costs around $150,000 per doggie to clone? Probably not.
Of course, if the prospect of Dog Cloning isn't exclusive enough, or maybe the idea of having to wait years to get it done is too frustrating, maybe you just want a really expensive dog. I got the answer for you right here -- a Tibetan mastiff, flown in from China. With the best specimens in Asia selling for nearly $600,000, you'll pay a pretty penny for one of these giant lumbering canines which can reach over 270lbs in adult weight.
I should probably mention that they poop like horses as well, but you've got someone else to clean up after him, right?
Opulent Knowledge and Immortality
Knowledge is power. And he who has the knowledge controls the universe. Can you buy the knowledge to control the universe and your own destiny? You betcha.
What you want to do is to join Scientology. Because they have the answers to everything, especially on how you can expunge your engrams, become a Clear, and unlock the ancient knowledge that's already inside your brain, the most critical tidbit of course is that 75 million years ago, we were all aliens that were enslaved by the galactic overlord Xenu, who flew us to Earth (then known as the planet Teegeeack) and dumped us all into a volcano and blew us up with nuclear bombs where we became disembodied tortured souls that now possess our mortal bodies today.
Now, all of this is very useful information, but to get to this level of understanding and truly appreciate this, you have to reach "Operating Thetan Level III" which requires years and years of commitment to the Church. But you has OPULENCE, so just like the celebs in Hollywood, you can probably get there with a fixed donation of about $350,000-$400,000.
Then again, you want to get to the higher Operating Thetan levels after you reach OT-III, so it's gonna cost you quite a bit more, especially if you need to do it from a Celebrity Learning Centre where you can do it in an accelerated manner with private tutoring. But that's bupkis for being part of such an exclusive club of folks that possess true understanding of the universe, right?
Knowledge isn't everything, though. And while Scientology will help give you the mental discipline to ward off diseases and cast off all forms of medication, you'll still age. Thats where Cenegenics comes in, to help keep the Grim Reaper away as long as possible. They'll give you all sorts of private medical consultations, improve your diet and give you a special exercise regimen, as well as special hormone treatments. For a mere $1500+ plus per month, that ain't bad at all.
Eventually, however, you WILL die. No amount of enlightenment and/or medical assistance and hormonal tweaking will help you then. But there is an answer, and it's called Cryonics.
See, one day, perhaps as soon as hundreds of years into the future, we'll be able to beat death. We'll be
able to live forever and with the help of nanotechnology, we'll be able to re-animate and reconstruct dead tissue. Better still, we may be able to construct indestructible, android bodies that contain our consciousness that are even better than the real thing. How's that for a hardware upgrade, eh?
Well, the problem is, we can't friggin' do that now. But if you preserve your body when you die in a completely frozen state where you can't deteriorate, then the chances of you coming back are... uh... um... well we have no freaking idea. It's a crapshoot.
But when you're ultra-rich, a crapshoot is better than nothing. And Alcor has the answer to that. For a measly $150,000, you can arrange for a full-body cryosuspension, where at the moment of death technicians will replace most of your body's natural fluids with protective chemicals, after which your corpse will be placed in a Cryonic Dewar, a big metal Thermos containing liquid nitrogen. There you will stay for the eons, completely vitrified in a deep cool, until technology has a chance to catch up and revive you. Maybe.
Looking to go Opulent this holiday season? Talk Back and Let Me Know.