Will they be the Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid of Silicon Valley -- or just computerdom's answer to the Odd Couple?
Nolan Bushnell -- the man who created Atari, the Chuck E. Cheese Pizza Time Theatre restaurants and last Christmas' high-tech talking teddy, A. G. Bear -- is negotiating a new venture with Steven (Woz) Wozniak -- cofounder and creator of Apple Computer Co., and now chairman of a company called Cloud 9.
The two engineering entrepreneurs are expected to outline plans for a new generation of techno-toys today at a press conference in California. The merger of Bushnell's Axlon with Wozniak's firm, which is developing an innovative remote control that will turn on and off just about anything, may be announced today, said Axlon marketing vice president Tom Zito.
Speculation centers on fusing Axlon's menagerie of electronic animals, such as A. G. Bear, with the remote control technologies advanced by Wozniak's group.
Remote-control technology might allow walking versions of the talking A. G. Bears or permit children to electronically control a roomful of interactive toys in much the way a lion tamer might direct his large cats.
Both Bushnell's and Wozniak's interest in video might lead to videocassette programs with built-in remote control signals that could have characters on the television screen talking with -- and controlling -- toys in the living room.
Neither Bushnell nor Wozniak could be reached for comment.
Axlon's Zito said the idea for the merger sprang up last month when Wozniak was at a barbeque at Bushnell's house and "made it clear he was interested in what we were doing.
"Woz has known Nolan since the early days of Atari . . . and he wrote the [computer] code for Breakout a popular video game for the Atari system ."
Zito stressed that [ "nothing's been signed] . . but [the merger] is quite probable."
Bushnell, 43, has a reputation as a showman/entrepreneur fluent in media hype. After helping launch the video games industry, he made $15 million selling Atari to Warner Communications Inc. in 1978.
The 35-year-old Wozniak, widely regarded as a brilliant computer hardware "hacker," left Apple last year after a dispute with company cofounder Stephen Jobs to launch Cloud 9 and build advanced remote control devices for consumer use.