Disney makes Space for HP technology

ORLANDO, Fla. – This is what happens when Disney imagination meets HP invention.

The Walt Disney Co. and Hewlett-Packard Thursday announced a 10-year strategic alliance

for an undisclosed sum designed to co-develop new technologies.

The announcement positions the companies to push the boundaries of the role of technology plays in the entertainment market, but both parties offered scant details on how the partnership might manifest itself.

HP, however, has worked extensively with Disney in the past. The company oversaw Disney’s e-mail consolidation project, for example, consolidating from 190 locations in 40 countries with 17 systems to one central system. It has also provided the company with more than 70,000 desktops, 10,000 servers and – in Disney’s Orlando resorts alone – 13,000 Laserjet printers.

HP also powers Disney sites Disney.com, ABC.com and ESPN.com and has implemented wireless translation devices in 25 attractions at Walt Disney World.

The latest partnership agreement between Disney and HP is being dubbed “”the digital decade”” by the participants.

“”Every process is being digitized right now,”” HP CEO Carly Fiorina told ITBusiness.ca. She said the alliance will focus on “”the creative process and content delivery,”” adding that “”every physical analogue process will become a digital one – every last one.””

Before becoming part of HP through the historic merger a year and a half ago, Compaq was also very much involved in the Disney company. Compaq was the technology provider and sponsor of a Disneyland exhibit in Anaheim, Calif., called Innoventions in 1998. In 2000, Compaq and Walt Disney Internet Group announced a three-year agreement naming Compaq as the preferred provider for the Mouse’s online presence.

Pre-existing relationships with both Compaq and HP helped clear the way for the far-ranging 10-year agreement, said Disney president Bob Iger.

“”Some of the discussions, in earnest, began when they were not one,”” he said. “”Now that they are one company, our relationship has expanded beyond where we expected it to go.””

He added that it was too early to speculate on what that destination might be, given the level of innovation expected to develop from the partnership.

The agreement is global in scale and will involve Disney’s and HP’s Canadian offices. The Canadian companies met in Orlando this week to decide how that partnership might take shape.

HP Canada regional brand marketing manager Sandra Pakosh said Thursday’s announcement was “”a door opening to see how we are developing our relationship.””

She speculated that the emphasis will be heavy on encouraging Canadian tourists to visit Disney’s U.S. parks and that a more concrete announcement was forthcoming in November.

HP and Disney announced the partnership on the same day as the launch of a new HP-sponsored attraction in EPCOT Center, Orlando.

The ride, called “”Mission: Space”” is a space flight simulator designed to mimic a Mars-mission shuttle launch. The ride features a blast-off sequence in which passengers experience G-forces many times that of earth’s gravity, as well as a lunar slingshot, where the craft is propelled around the moon, and a bumpy Mars landing.

Five years in the making, “”Mission: Space”” was accomplished with the co-operation of NASA engineers and technology contributions and consultation from HP.

According to Fiorina, who said she has visited Orlando five times in the last year, “”This is the closest thing any of us will get to travelling to Mars.”” For astronauts of the future it’s “”the first step towards the real thing.””

Fiorina pointed out that HP’s relationship with Disney has roots that are 65 years old.

Hewlett-Packard’s founders sold eight Model 200B oscillators to Walt Disney Studios in 1938. The equipment was used by Disney engineers to test the recording equipment and speakers in 12 specially-equipped movie theatres to show the Disney animation/music hybrid Fantasia, released in 1940.

“”That was one of the first sales made out of their garage by Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard,”” said Fiorina.

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