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RealTime IT News

HP's Trek Through the Magic Kingdom

Hewlett-Packard Thursday announced a 10-year technology partnership with Walt Disney that includes collaborating on entertainment at theme parks and other media properties.

Palo Alto, Calif.-based HP, which inherited the partnership from its Compaq Computer acquisition, said it would focus on helping Disney produce digital entertainment including "providing the infrastructure to distribute secure digital content through a range of channels."

"HP is proud to be the technology provider supporting much of what makes the Disney experience magical," HP CEO Carly Fiorina said during a Webcast.

Disney president and COO Bob Iger said making compelling products and experiences for customers by applying technology is the common thread between the two companies and "what makes this terrific alliance tick."

As part of the celebration, Disney and HP officially launched the "Mission: SPACE" attraction at Epcot at the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida with a corresponding national ad campaign. The ride was developed between HP and Disney engineers including the Post Show area known as the "Advanced Training Lab," which showcases how HP technology powers and builds upon the attraction's story.

The HP partnership is not expected to impact Disney's dealings with Pixar Animation and Apple Computer wunderkind Steve Jobs, whose celebrated motion picture collaborations include Finding Nemo, Toy Story, Monster's Inc. and A Bug's Life. Despite hammering out the remainder of a distribution deal that expires in 2005, Iger told analysts Thursday he felt there was some leeway in working out their current contract.

"Clearly the relationship we have with them from a business standpoint on the next two pictures is on the table on both sides. There is value to be gained on their side and value to be potentially given up on ours," Iger told analysts in a Webcast.

Pixar is also talking to other major movie studios including Sony, Universal and 20th Century Fox trying to shore up contracts for 2006 and beyond.

However, if Pixar leaves, that may open up an golden opportunity for HP to move in. The company often advertises its technology was pivotal in the success of 2001 summer blockbuster Shrek.

Disney and HP have worked on movies before. More than 60 years ago HP co-founder Bill Hewlett modified his first invention -- an oscillator -- to help Walt Disney fine-tune the acoustics in movie theaters presenting the animated 1940 film classic Fantasia. The collaborative relationship grew in 1998, when HP became an anchor of the new Innoventions showcase at Disneyland Park and the power behind a range of activities at DisneyQuest Interactive Theme Park.

Most recently, HP and the Walt Disney Internet Group expanded their relationship with a new two-year agreement. HP said it will continue to be a media sponsor of several Disney-owned sites, including ESPN.com, ABCNews.com and Disney.com, and is the exclusive sponsor of "Disney's Magic Artist Online," a children's Web site. HP said it will also continue to be the preferred technology provider of the Walt Disney Internet Group for such properties such as "Disney's Toontown Online," the first massively multiplayer 3D online game.

HP has also contributed to Disney in that it supplies the Magic Kingdom with 70,000 desktop PCs some 10,000 servers. The company also provides Walt Disney Feature Animation with HP's Linux-based workstations and servers as components in its next-generation digital animation production pipeline. The computer and printer maker also powers many of the control systems of Disneyland's current fireworks display.

In addition, HP has worked closely with Disney in the implementation of the wireless handheld translation devices, called "Ears to the World," recently introduced to help translate more than 25 rides and attractions in five languages for guests who doesn't speak English at the Walt Disney World Resort.

Mission: Marketing
The Mission: SPACE launch comes complete with a mega marketing blitz, which is part of HP's big consumer push including earmarking $300 million for advertising. The nationwide campaign targets TV, print, outdoor, interactive and in-store promotions. HP said its print ads will appear in USA Today, Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Newsweek and Fortune, among other national media outlets that appeal to tech savvy families. Ads will also appear in 25 local market newspapers nationwide, including Florida, where the Walt Disney World Resort is located.

In conjunction with the advertising campaign, HP said it is also sponsoring its first-ever consumer sweepstakes. Supported with national media, as well as an in-store promotion at Office Depot, it offers entrants an opportunity to win one of 10 family trips for four to Epcot with the ability to "travel to Mars" for New Year's Eve on the Mission: SPACE attraction and to have their home outfitted with the latest in HP wireless networking and entertainment technology. Ads for the promotion will run in Better Homes and Gardens, People, "O" Magazine and Time, among others.