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Disney executive praises potential of Apple iPad


Calling the iPad a "game changer," Walt Disney Chief Executive Bob Iger revealed Tuesday that his company has big plans for Apple's device, including interactive TV, games, applications and comic books.

Iger's comments came during the Walt Disney Co. quarterly earnings conference call Tuesday. He suggested the company could build an iPad application around the popular ABC show "Lost" that would allow users to interact with the program and learn more information as they watch it.

He also said new ABC News and ESPN Score Center applications would be coming to the iPad, with an emphasis on giving users a new way to view with their content. He noted the existing ESPN application provides "rudimentary information" on scores, but the iPad version could become something much more.

"We find that iPad has a lot of potential," Iger said. "We think it’s a really compelling device. We think it could be a game changer in terms of enabling us to create essentially new forms of content. Obviously it will be a great device to play games on and to watch videos because of the clarity 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 products that are different than the product that you typically see on an Internet-connected computer, or on a television set."

That Disney plans to support the iPad should come as no surprise — Apple co-founder Steve Jobs is the single largest shareholder of stock in the Walt Disney Co. But Iger's comments do provide a clue as to what kind of content and new applications major developers could bring to Apple's new multimedia device.

The CEO also revealed that Disney's digital revenues topped $2 billion in 2009. He expects the number to be even larger in 2010, thanks, in part, to the iPad.

He said that previously Disney was emphasizing e-books on computers screens, and the company had recently started to focus on expanding those titles to the iPhone and the iPod touch. But the iPad and its iBookstore will provide a new and different opportunity for the company to explore that market.

"Suddenly this device comes along and provides us with an even more robust technological platform, that makes the interactivity that we are going to provide — things like read along simple animation music — to just sort of come to life," Iger said.

He also revealed that Disney is working on casual games for the iPad, and that it would release comic books from Marvel on the device.

Apple has reportedly been in talks with TV networks for months to offer a subscription TV plan. Disney — which owns ABC, Disney Channel and the ABC Family networks — has reportedly shown interest in the idea, but others have not. While networks were allegedly briefed on the tablet prior to its release, as a potential way to watch TV content, a TV subscription plan was not revealed when the iPad was unveiled in late January.