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Microsoft wishing upon a MobileStar?

An analyst thinks the company could be one of several "prospective buyers" of MobileStar Network, a wireless ISP that once served hundreds of Starbucks coffeehouses.

A wireless industry analyst thinks Microsoft could be one of several "prospective buyers" of MobileStar Network, a wireless Internet service provider that once served hundreds of Starbucks coffeehouses and that's now in the process of shutting down its network.

Researcher Sarah Kim, of The Yankee Group, wrote in her analysis of MobileStar's demise that the two companies would make a good fit, specifically because Microsoft's content delivery arm, MSN, is already involved in the agreement that MobileStar made with Starbucks.

Plus, "this move would compliment Microsoft's .Net strategy," she writes. Microsoft's .Net is the company's strategy to connect all its products and properties.

Kim's research note did not, however, say whether Microsoft is making any effort to buy MobileStar's assets. A Microsoft spokeswoman declined to comment Wednesday.

Microsoft might not be the only suitor, she writes. Kim believes another potential buyer is Wayport, which provides wireless Internet access in four airports including Dallas/Fort Worth International, Seattle-Tacoma International, San Jose International and Austin-Bergstrom International. The company also provides wired and wireless access at hotels including Four Seasons.

Wayport is also MobileStar's "former archrival," Kim writes, and should be an obvious suitor. A spokesman for Wayport was not available for comment.

On Oct. 10, MobileStar laid off all its employees and began shutting down its network, which provided wireless Internet access at hotels, airports and about 500 Starbucks restaurants.

Some of the original investors say the company is falling victim to troubling economic times that have proven to be fatal for other wireless service providers, including Metricom, the providers of the Ricochet high-speed wireless service. Metricom was shuttered earlier this year, leaving about 51,000 subscribers without service.

The company has retained Diablo Management Group and turnaround specialist Richard Couch to take the company's helm, possibly for a sale of its assets. Couch did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

The company was trying to raise cash for at least six months and had reached a tentative deal just a few weeks ago, but that "went away," a source said.