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Disney And HP Expand Their Alliance

The longtime partners disclosed a 10-year alliance to refine consumer-entertainment technologies.

In 1937, the Walt Disney Co. became one of Hewlett-Packard's first customers when Walt Disney himself purchased a customized oscillator produced in the Palo Alto, Calif., garage where Bill Hewlett and David Packard founded their business. The two companies have been working together ever since, and Thursday, they advanced their 66-year relationship with a 10-year strategic alliance to refine consumer-entertainment technologies by working collaboratively on everything from theme-park attractions to back-office IT systems to home networking gear.

At the same time, Disney unveiled Mission: Space, the newest attraction at Walt Disney World's Epcot and one the company is calling its most technologically advanced ride ever--built with unspecified HP technologies. "This is the closest any of us will get to visiting Mars," HP CEO Carly Fiorina said during a Webcast to announce the companies' expanded relationship. The companies launched a national advertising campaign for the ride featuring TV spots directed by Jake Scott, son of famed movie director Ridley Scott.

Mission: Space isn't HP's first foray into Disney theme parks. Many of the control systems behind the fireworks display at Disneyland run on HP technology, and the two companies co-developed a wireless translation system called "Ears to the World" that provides synchronized narration in five languages at more than 25 Walt Disney World attractions via lightweight headsets.

The companies already have a fairly deep technology partnership outside of the parks: HP oversaw a massive E-mail consolidation project for Disney; it manages the Walt Disney Internet Group's help desk and PC support; it has 70,000 PCs and 10,000 Intel-based servers deployed within the company; and it provided Linux workstations and servers as the backbone of Disney's digital animation production system.

In the future, HP will work with Disney to develop a digital infrastructure for securing content delivered over the Internet, and they will jointly develop entertainment appliances for home networks.

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