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Disney publishing exec discusses company’s animated Android experience

by Brad Spirrison

While Disney properties are commonplace in the iTunes App Store, the company’s immersion into the Android wonderland is only just beginning.

Last month, Disney Publishing Worldwide made the $2.99 Winnie the Pooh Puzzle Book available to owners of Android smartphones and tablet devices.

Notes Appolicious Advisor Kristen Nicole, who led off the July 13 Android Apps of the Week with the Disney title:

“The book comes with all the delight you’d expect from a Disney product, as this transitive studio finds new ways to leverage today’s mobile technology.”

In this week’s Meet the Makers, Disney Publishing’s Vice President of Digital Media Lyle Underkoffler talks about his company’s first Android title, the state of kid’s books in the platform, and which famous Disney properties we should expect next.

Appolicious: Disney Books last month unveiled the Winnie The Pooh Puzzle Book on the Android platform. What should owners of Android devices expect to see when they download the app?

Lyle Underkoffler: First off, they should expect an immersive experience for their kids, helping them to read but also having fun through interactive puzzles and activities. The app will also allow them to relive the rich heritage of Winnie The Pooh in an exclusive, made-for-digital story. Finally, the app promotes the learning of new languages including English, French, German, Spanish and Japanese.

APPO: This is the first Disney Books title available for Android. For children's offerings in particular, from your vantage point how comprehensive is the Android space today relative to iOS?

LU: The iTunes book app category has strong representation of children's content (often 90 percent+ of the top 20 apps are kids-focused) where the Android market is evolving (less than 25 percent of the top 20 apps are kids focused). Disney Publishing Worldwide focuses on being fast to market on emerging platforms as we believe it creates a competitive advantage (beyond our rich content). We have little competition on Android today.

APPO: What were the technical challenges associated with developing an app that works well on multiple Android form factors and carried on a variety of cellular networks?

LU: Providing an experience that kids can enjoy and learn from is our goal, and technology has allowed us to create new ways to engage with our content. We work with a team of very talented developers who 'found' technology to bridge the form factor divide. DPW was proactive in understanding the potential barriers to creating a world-class app for Android (whether that be devices, networks, or carriers).

APPO: Is the app compatible to Honeycomb-based tablet devices?

LU: Yes, it is compatible with Honeycomb and requires Android 2.0+. We have worked to optimize the code for multiple O/S versions to ensure a consistent high-quality app. DPW is committed to this investment to reach the growing Android population.

APPO: From a marketing perspective, how are you generating awareness to the Android app in particular and how do you plan to drive downloads over time?

LU: There are a number of ways that DPW creates global awareness of an app including PR and direct marketing. We are experimenting with ways to leverage the broader Disney reach to activate new consumers.

APPO: What user behavior differences are you seeing, if any, among Android owners compared to other platforms?

LU: Early reads suggest that the Android install base is vastly global. This is the first app that has multiple languages packed within it, and we are seeing high usage of this feature. Also, users very much like the record-your-voice option

APPO: Can you tell us about additional titles in the works?

LU: We are working on bringing many of our iOS titles (e.g. Cars 2 and Disney Comics) to Android, and looking at opportunities to launch Android-only products.

APPO: What are the three biggest trends in the mobile application space keeping you up at night?

LU: Opportunity keeps me up at night!

1) Speed: the speed of change across all levels of the ecosystem and the number of new entrants, both big and small, almost on a daily basis.

2) Divergence: technology should provide the opportunity to create scalable business, but there has yet to be consistency across OEMs, Telcos, etc. especially on a global basis.

3) Quality: maintaining high product quality while continuing to focus on innovation across platforms.