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American Airlines Will Track Cargo On The Fly
American Airlines Inc. is the latest company to use wirelessly enabled PDAs to improve its business. The airline is using wireless service from AT&T to track and process cargo shipments at seven major airports around the country.

American is using software from @hand Corp. on about 100 Palm OS devices from Symbol Technologies Inc. to let employees remotely exchange status reports with American's Sabre travel-distribution system. The airline hopes to reduce misdirected and lost shipments and create greater efficiencies in routing shipments from one hub to the next. The @hand applications allow communications to be interrupted and restarted without losing data--something that can be critical in an airport, where many different types of machines use several frequencies.

While American uses bar-coding and radios to track cargo, the systems don't work outside, where employees load and unload cargo. "We traditionally use radios, but there's so much voice radio traffic that it's easy to miss those communications," says Larry Metter, American's managing director of cargo operations support in Dallas. "Also, airports tend to be rather loud, so this is a way to communicate and make sure it isn't missed."

Cargo shipments represent only 4% of American's total revenue, but that accounted for $740 million in business last year, Metter says. American "fully expects to get a substantial return on investment," he says, adding that the biggest return will be in customer service.

American's Cargo Division plans to have the device in use by August.

--Matthew G. Nelson ([email protected])

BellSouth Opens Multimedia Exchange
BellSouth Corp. last week opened its Multimedia Internet Exchange in southern Florida, creating what it calls the most intelligent, optically switched Internet access point of its kind and making advanced Internet services more readily available in the region.

BellSouth built MIX to enhance Internet connectivity services available to hosting companies, application service providers, and Internet co-location providers. For redundancy and maximum customer flexibility, the system includes four network access points in south Florida--two in Miami, one in Fort Lauderdale, and one in Boca Raton. The four points are networked using intelligent switching technology from Cisco Systems and Sycamore Networks Inc.

The network uses dense-wave division multiplexing optical switching and transport gear to carry Internet data at speeds ranging from 45 Mbps to 10 Gbps. The optical equipment lets BellSouth quickly provision services on the network and allocate more bandwidth to customers in near-real time, says Susan Campbell, president of BellSouth Internet Exchange Inc., the unit responsible for building and running MIX.

There are other benefits as well. The opening of MIX "is going to allow the next wave of development of the Internet in Latin America," says Juan Fernandez, a senior telecommunications analyst at Gartner. That's because MIX is near the cable landings for major underseas fiber-optic cables carrying Internet traffic to Central and South America.

--John Rendleman ([email protected])

Palm Beats Revised Revenue Figure-Barely
Citing channel problems and the softening economy, Palm Inc. reported revenue of $165.3 million for its fourth quarter ended June 1, compared with $350.2 million in the year-ago quarter. The company barely beat its revised revenue figure of $140 million to $160 million, which it issued May 17.

Revenue for the year was $1.56 billion, up 47% from the $1.06 billion reported in fiscal 2000. Palm's pro forma net loss for fiscal 2001 was $28.5 million, or 5 cents per share, compared with pro forma net income of $58.4 million, or 11 cents per share, the previous year. The company's actual net loss for fiscal 2001 was $356.5 million, or 63 cents per share, compared with net income of $45.9 million, or 9 cents per share, for fiscal 2000.

"April [sales were] down 38% from March and 46% from February," CFO Judy Bruner says. To offset the losses, she says, Palm has cut the number of devices ordered and reduced head count.

--Matthew G. Nelson ([email protected])

3Com Posts Losses, Continues To Trim Costs
3Com Corp. last week posted a loss of $518 million, or $1.52 a share, for its fourth fiscal quarter on revenue of $468 million. That's sharply higher than the year-ago quarter, when the company posted a loss of $147 million, or 45 cents a share, on revenue of $764 million. For the full year, 3Com lost $965 million, or $2.81 a share, on revenue of $2.8 billion. The year before, 3Com had a $674 million profit, or $1.88 a share, on revenue of $4.3 billion.

"They have a good chance of surviving this current period of economic turmoil," says Martha Young, research director at Enterprise Management Associates, given the company's strength in areas such as management tools for small and midsize businesses, LAN switches, and IP phone systems.

In an effort to contain its losses, 3Com has gotten out of some of its less-profitable businesses and has been trimming expenses. The company expects to reduce its total payroll from 12,000 people last November to 7,000 this November.

--John Rendleman ([email protected])

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