Wireless Travel App Nearly Ready

Next month, Galileo International Inc. and Sprint Corp. will announce an automated travel-planning tool that lets Sprint cellular phone users tap into Galileo's huge mainframe-based reservation system to create or change travel itineraries on the fly.

The Sprint service will be the first in a series of new business-to-business offerings from Galileo. Rosemont, Illinois-based Galileo is converting much of its legacy reservation system to XML-based software components that can be downloaded and incorporated into other companies' applications.

"Our vision for Galileo is to open up all the functionality and data housed in the system to everyone and anyone who wants access to travel information," said Jim Lubinski, executive vice president of operations at the company, which today serves more than 40,000 travel agencies.

Galileo is working with Schaumburg, Illinois-based Motorola Inc. to develop a similar application for users of Motorola's wireless two-way pagers. AT&T Corp. has also expressed interest in developing a service, Lubinski said.

About 800 Sprint users with Wireless Application Protocol-ready cell phones have been using the service since February. Before that, Galileo software developers spent close to a year working with developers from Dallas-based ObjectSpace Inc. Galileo has applied ObjectSpace's OpenBusiness software tools to extract information from multiple legacy systems. With XML-based modeling techniques, Galileo then converts the data into components its business partners can drag and drop into their own software.

"We've built a wireless server that is the conduit between pervasive computing devices that access the data and the legacy system itself," Lubinski said.

"We've designed this initial effort to encapsulate all of the travel services Galileo offers."

Galileo considers the new business-to-business electronic services and partnerships a "huge revenue opportunity," Lubinski said.

For example, Lubinski said, he expects corporate in-house travel systems to adopt the technology. He declined to give an exact figure of projected revenue growth.

"What Galileo is doing represents the real business value of XML," said Tyler McDaniel, an analyst at Hurwitz Group Inc. in Framingham, Massachusetts. For the past year or so, companies have largely deployed XML-based applications to cut costs by improving data access and exchange among supply-chain partners.

"It's just now that companies are creating new revenue streams," McDaniel said.

But fair warning: Getting there is a complex undertaking, according to John Mann, an analyst at Seybold Group Inc. in Boston. "All of these legacy applications were never meant to work in the Web world," Mann noted.

Transforming them into "nice, neat objects involves a lot of design work. It's not just that you get a tool or push a button."

But Mann also predicted that vendors such as ObjectSpace "will eventually be able to dumb these things down so the average Joe can do it."

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