I know I read rumblings about this last week, but now The New York Times has picked up the story:
Now Mr. Jobs is in negotiations to join forces with the Walt Disney Company itself.
A deal would involve the sale of Mr. Jobs’s Pixar Animation Studios for more than $6.8 billion to Disney, according to three people apprised of the negotiations. The sale, whose terms are still being negotiated, would make Mr. Jobs a major shareholder and director at Disney, which has been trying to find its footing in the changing world of animation.
Who’s eating who? It’s clear what Disney gets out of the deal. Pixar perfected the animation style and try as Disney has, Chicken Little is no Toy Story. To my untrained and probably misinformed eye, this seems to be more about Apple/Jobs getting a foothold in Disney than just Disney getting Pixar. Jobs isn’t selling Pixar and walking away, he’s getting some control in Disney.
I keep thinking of a Stevenote way back when where Jobs introduced iTools. Remember iTools? The free collection of utilities that Apple introduced because, as he said at the time, they weren’t happy with what was already out there. It dawned on Apple that they were in the unique position of having control over both the client (running on their hardware) and the server. Why not take advantage of it? Why not indeed? It’s the same "control it from both ends" thinking that led to the iPod and iTunes. That forced the client/server hardware/software balance to include the content too. You can have the coolest music player in the world and the best software for syncing to your computer, but it’s all about the content. Imagine if there were no deals with the major record labels and iTunes had the same independent-only content as eMusic?
No company has been successful at controlling a piece of the hardware, software and content at the same time. If you believe the press, Jobs is constantly fighting it out with media over DRM and profits and control. With Jobs a major shareholder of Disney stock, doesn’t that give him a foot-in-the-door into that last piece of the puzzle…at least in the content that’s under Disney’s roof (Touchstone, ABC and all the rest included)?
Update (1/22/06): This site announces the purchase as if it’s a done deal, expected to announce tomorrow. And to answer Erik’s question from the comments below (if the article is to be believed):
The all-share deal will make Steve Jobs, the chief executive of Apple, around $3.5bn and the single largest shareholder in Disney.