Mickey Mouse Goes Mobile


Las Vegas -- The Walt Disney Co. made a big splash complete with Mickey Mouse and fountains spewing fireworks at the CTIA Wireless show here Wednesday as it unveiled its Disney Mobile wireless service aimed at families.

The service is one of a growing number of mobile-virtual-network-operator services now hitting the market. But Disney said its service is the first aimed specifically at families, offering a slew of software tools that will allow parents to control how their children communicate on the go.

In a taped video segment, Disney CEO Bob Iger said that as families turn increasingly to mobile communications, Disney’s trusted brand would find traction as a service aimed at their needs.

When it debuts in June, Disney Mobile will be “a comprehensive service parents can manage that can give teens and tweens all the content they want,” Iger said.

Disney Mobile president Steve Wadsworth followed up on that idea by saying the service would offer a new way to look at family communications.

Wadsworth told the crowd that with software loaded on the $59 Pantech “DMP 100” handset, the service will be a family mobile-communications hub.

In fact, the “Family Center” browser interface on the phone offers four key controls -- family monitor, call control, family locator and family alert.

Using the family-monitor feature, parents can put their kids on a data-usage allowance. If the child exceeds the usage limit, an alert beams to the child and the parent. Parents will also have access to real-time information on the family’s entire data usage.

Call control, meanwhile, allows the parent to limit hours when their children can use their phone. For example, they can set it to not make calls during calls during school. But an added feature allows 911 and calls to the parent in emergencies to always remain on during these restricted hours.

Parents also can program prohibited numbers, blocking calls to and from individuals they don’t want contacting their kids. In addition, all of the call-control features can be tailored to each child, so younger children can have less access, while older children can be given more.

The family locator gives parents the ability -- using global-positioning technology built into the phone -- to locate their children. The Disney application is available from the Web and from the parent’s cell phone.

Family alert sets up priority messages the parent can send. The message sits on the child’s phone screen, and the child can’t make a call or access any other content until they reply to the message.

The software can also send alerts to one family member or all members.

While the mobile service will offer many family communications tools, it also won’t be short on Disney’s generous content inventory. The service will allow users to create their own themes, supplying specific content they want to see and hear, Wadsworth said.

Pricing packages for the service have not been released, but Wadsworth said they would be competitive.