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Cell-Internet phone combo unveiled

Compiled from wire reports The Spokesman-Review

London BT Group PLC unveiled its attempt to bridge the landline and wireless divide Wednesday, launching a service that operates as a cell phone connection outside and automatically switches to an Internet-based call once a user enters the home or office.

The company is banking on the new service, dubbed BT Fusion, to attract customers by combining the convenience of a cell phone with cheaper fixed-line prices.

“We know that many of our customers enjoy the convenience of their mobile phones when they’re out and about, but switch to using a landline phone when they arrive back home to save money or because they have little or no mobile coverage,” said Ian Livingstone, chief executive of BT Retail.

BT is initially seeking just 400 customers for BT Fusion, followed by a more widespread consumer launch in September and a corporate package next year.

The new product is part of a bid to win back customers who have abandoned the company’s fixed-line service for offerings from cell phone providers. Revenue from the company’s traditional fixed-line operation fell by 9 percent in the first three months of this year.

The wireless part of the Fusion service is being provided by Vodafone Group PLC since BT sold its own mobile business, which now trades as O2, four years ago. The service is initially available with Motorola Inc.’s v560 handset.

The new service seamlessly joins landline and cellphone coverage. When the user is on the move, the handset uses the Vodafone mobile network.

Black-and-white film paper on the way out

Rochester, N.Y. Eastman Kodak Co. said Wednesday it will discontinue production of black-and-white film paper for the professional market by the end of the year as its transition continues to digital photography.

Kodak spokesman David Lanzillo said the paper, used by studio and professional photographers to make prints, is produced at facilities in Rochester and Brazil. The company will continue to make black-and-white film and chemicals for processing.

Lanzillo said he could not specify how many employees will be affected, but the decision is part of the previously announced reduction of 12,000 to 15,000 workers worldwide by 2007. That is expected to leave the photography giant with a global work force of about 50,000.

Demand for black-and-white paper is declining 25 percent annually as the imaging industry transitions from film to digital, Lanzillo said.

Kodak in April reported a first-quarter loss of $142 million because of a steady slide in revenues from film and other chemical-based businesses and higher-than-expected costs to cover steep job cuts.

Boeing pares list of CEO candidates

Le Bourget, France Boeing is down to a short list of “five or six” potential new chief executives, including two internal candidates, Chairman Lew Platt said Wednesday.

Platt confirmed that the head of the commercial division, Alan Mulally, and Jim Albaugh, head of the company’s space and defense business, were both on the list, and denied reports that the job had been turned down by an external candidate.

“No job offers have been made,” he told a meeting of reporters covering the Paris Air Show. “Nobody’s turned us down.” He declined to identify any of the three or four external candidates.

Chicago-based Boeing Co. is still without a permanent boss three months after CEO Harry Stonecipher was forced to resign after admitting an affair with a female executive in the middle of a high-profile drive to improve company ethics.

Platt said interim CEO James Bell had been doing an excellent job and could not be ruled out as a possible candidate, although he was “unlikely” to be chosen and was not currently on the short list.

“He is already much more in my mind today than he was three months ago,” Platt said. “He’s not actively being considered as a candidate today but I’ve had discussions with several board members about the quality of the job James has been doing.”

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