Bob Iger: Apple and Disney might have merged if Steve Jobs were alive

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With Apple TV+ ready to compete against Disney+, Bob Iger resigns from the Apple board.
With Apple TV+ ready to compete against Disney+, Bob Iger resigned from the Apple board.
Photo: Josh Hallett/Flickr CC

Departing Apple board member and Disney CEO, Bob Iger, opened up about his relationship with Steve Jobs in an excerpt from his new book of life lessons coming out next week.

Iger and Jobs became close friends after Disney bought Pixar, making Jobs Disney’s biggest shareholder. According to Iger, he felt that if Jobs were still alive Apple and Disney would have combineded into one company, or at least been very seriously discussed.

When Iger took over as Disney CEO, Jobs had an icy relationship with the company stemming from Pixar’s original deal with Disney. Iger aimed to mend the fences immediately and quickly approved a deal that put some of Disney’s biggest TV shows on the video iPod. That deal sparked a friendship between the two that lasted until Jobs’ death in 2011.

“We enjoyed each other’s company immensely, and we felt we could say anything to each other, that our friendship was strong enough that it was never threatened by candor,” said Iger in the excerpt on Vanity Fair. “You don’t expect to develop such close friendships late in life, but when I think back on my time as CEO—at the things I’m most grateful for and surprised by—my relationship with Steve is one of them. He could criticize me, and I could disagree, and neither of us took it too personally.”

Iger stepped down from Apple’s board of directors last week. The two companies are preparing to compete against each other in the TV streaming wars later this year with the launches of Disney+ and Apple TV+. Analysts were hopeful that Apple would acquire Disney just a few years ago but now it seems like the two companies are too big to coexist under one brand.

In his book, Iger also shares that he had a vision for the future of TV where shows and movies would be accessed on our computers. This was a few years before the iPhone was even invented, but Iger described his vision to Jobs as sort of an iTunes platform for television called “iTV.” When Steve heard Igers explanation he was silent and then told him that he’s working on something Iger needed to see.

“A few weeks later, he flew down to Burbank. ‘You can’t tell anyone about this,’ he said. ‘But what you’re talking about with television shows—that’s exactly what we’ve been imagining.’ He slowly withdrew a device from his pocket. ‘This is our new video iPod,’ Iger recollects Jobs saying.

Disney agreed to put Lost, Desperate Housewives and a few of its other top shows on the video iPod and the rest is history.