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Disney’s Iger Takes Big Swig Of iPad Kool-Aid

Bob Iger wasn’t on stage for the iPad launch last month, but the Disney CEO just gave a demo spiel Steve Jobs, the company’s largest shareholder, would applaud about a “really compelling” device that could be a game changer. Volunteering and replying to analyst questions about how Disney plans to use the new Apple (NSDQ: AAPL) tablet, Iger reeled off a series of iPad uses that are either likely or already in progress: a companion to ABC’s Lost, an ABC News app, a digital books app for Disney, an enhanced version of the popular ESPN Sports Center app, and apps for Marvel (NYSE: DIS).

Some might be adapted for iPad, some created. Iger said the iPad platform will “enable us to really start distributing product that is different than the product you typically see.” For instance, Disney was working on a version of its still-nascent Disney Digital Books for iTunes and iTouch. “Suddenly this device comes along,” offering an “even more robust platform” for possibilities like read-a-longs, simple animation, music come to life.

“We think it could be a game changer in terms of enabling us to create essentially new forms of content. And obviously it will be a great device to play games on and to watch videos, because of the quality of the screen, but the interactivity that it will allow on a portable device with such a high-quality screen is going to enable us to really start developing product that is different than the product that you typically see on an internet-connected computer or on a television set.” Disney’s decentralized philosophy when it comes to apps — each unit handles its own — should give that creativity some room.

Even if it takes off like a Buzz Lightyear rocket, the iPad would still be a very small part of Disney’s digital revenue. Iger noted during the call that Disney exceeded “nicely” about $2 billion in digital revenues across the company in 2009. (That works out to about 5.8 percent of Disney’s $36 billion 2009 revenue.) That’s all in — commerce, games, video, everything — with theme parks alone making up about half. But, he reminded later, “We think digital media, while clearly it’s significant, it’s still evolving. I’m fond of saying it’s still the beginning of the beginning and that’s how we look at it.”

Changing game theory: Disney’s overall gaming strategy also is evolving. Instead of creating video game titles to span devices and consoles, the company has learned that some programming does best on the more common devices and is adjusting accordingly. Disney-branded games do better on the Nintendo Wii and DS, not on high-end consoles, Iger explained. The higher-end games are more expensive to make and face Disney faces more competition then when it started its original game development.

Explained Iger, “While we’re going to continue to make games for the high end, we’ll be very, very judicious in how many and which ones we choose.” The ratio will continue to run about 80 percent Disney branded. But Disney may also have some more opportunities; Iger sees recently acquired Marvel as “a brand that we think would do extremely well on the higher-end consoles.” At the same time, Disney is stepping up casual gaming.

14 Responses to “Disney’s Iger Takes Big Swig Of iPad Kool-Aid”

  1. Valpocade

    A great product? It would be if it were about $150.00 cheaper. Its too late now but for a little more unit cost Apple really could have changed Tablet computing by using a real CPU and a real OS rather than blowing up an iPod Touch. I do think that Apple fanboys would buy whatever Steve Jobs told them to. Godd looking hardware yes it is. Good engineering, no! How many Apple class action lawsuits have there been for design flaws from the original iBooks to the pitiful hinges on the alluminum MBP, to the low quality low cost garbage displays on the ne iMacs? The killer though of all of this Apple hype is the closed proprietary platform, if you enjoy being locked to your hardware by all means buy Apple. iTunes store is the reason that iPad doesnt have flash, not the silly argument that flash is bad software.

  2. gravitygardener

    Technologies like the Ipad will continue to feed the gaming industry.

    Even though the market is exploding with the advent of the internet and other technologies to support the industry, it is drawing talent from other technology areas that may have more skills and experience than you do. Your choice in selecting the right institution will be critical in achieving your placement and career goals when you have completed the courses.

    Getting a game design job requires training in the newest industry technologies and tools. When researching schools that offer these programs, you will need to ask the right questions before signing up to make sure you are will have the necessary skills needed to compete in the marketplace. 

    Gravity Gardener

  3. Big Media likes the iPad because they understand that Apple has incredibly loyal followers that have no compunction about giving up freedom in order to carry the latest, trendiest Apple device into their favorite coffee shops.

    Problem with that strategy is you have to ~remain~ cool… Without Flash, the iPad will quickly start looking primitive compared to every other tablet that has Flash.

    He got away with excluding Flash on the iPhone because no other smart phone had Flash either. That’s all about to change. In addition, Flashers (like me) are pissed at Apple for Jobs’ petty anti-Flash crap. Jobs has sorely underestimated a million Flashers waiting to pounce on the smart phone market… Apps store? That’s funny. Soon every smart phone on the market will have the entire Internet as their apps store – except one…

  4. toobiigspoon

    We’ve had touch screen devices for years that have been capable of video, multimedia, responsive interfaces, and really anything the iPad is capable of. Yes, the iPad has sleek design, it’s lightweight, and it’s got newer, high-end processing hardware. No, it is not unique in any way, except for its unique branding and marketing, and the aspect that hotrod3322 has pointed out above- proprietary software control.

    This is a step backwards from general-purpose touch-screen laptops. There is certainly a market for sandboxed computer “appliances” like this, but Microsoft spent the 1990s trying to pigeonhole people in exactly the same ways that Apple is trying to now (albeit with different products). In the long-run, this is commercial suicide. They will ultimately out lose to Google, HP, Microsoft, Adobe, et al, if they refuse to accept that not all technology in the world wants to be licensed from for by Apple.

  5. toobiigspoon

    I need someone to clarify for me why the iPad is “game-changing” and what exactly Iger means by “essentially new forms of content.” I hear plenty of fluff language like this and no actual substance.

    • Staci D. Kramer

      I tried to get into that in the post — the iPad platform literally advances
      the potential for creation/development because of the video, the size of the
      screen, the response times, etc. That’s why Iger is excited.

  6. The Realist

    Why is it that critics of iPad are supposed to be soothsayers and prophets and people that see iPad for what it is, a great product are Kool aid drinkers? You are a flaming idiot probably on real drugs.