“Mapple” Lampoons the Cupertino Faithful on The Simpsons

Apple fans found their beloved company satirized Simpsons-style last night. The latest installment of the Fox cartoon featured a “Mapple” store in the beginning of the episode, a tech store where hip, young t-shirted employees take brand loyalty very seriously and display an inordinate amount of devotion to their bespectacled leader. Sound familiar?

The Mapple Store bears an uncanny resemblance to the 5th Avenue Apple Store, with the exception of being in Springfield’s Mall and not New York City. Lisa is amazed at the MyPods, MyPhones, and the Braniac Bar, where smug customer service representatives deal with Comic Book Guy’s complaints about the latest Mapple OS. Homer is intrigued by the dream-fueled, imagination-powered MyCube, whose function isn’t entirely clear, and which glows to show you that it’s not on.
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Is 4G Via Satellite Destined to Fail?

Last Friday, four executives of satellite holding company TerreStar Networks suddenly resigned, leaving just three people behind to fill the void. I don’t expect this lack of management to last for too long, but until TerreStar calls me back with details, I’m betting that the change in management signals a change in TerreStar’s strategy in that it’s no longer looking for a larger partner to help it build and finance a combined 4G satellite and terrestrial network, but is preparing to move ahead alone.

TerreStar is the new name of a former pager company called Motient. In 2004 Motient scored the regulatory jackpot when, despite protests from the cellular carriers, the Federal Communications Commission approved plans for an ancillary terrestrial component (ATC) network. Since then, it has found itself tangled up in a web of financial transactions designed to maximize the value of its two bands of satellite spectrum.

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Satellite Mergers Ahead?

Monday’s decision by the Justice Department to allow XM and Sirius to merge, combined with incumbents such as Verizon and AT&T winning much of the spectrum on offer in the 700 MHz auction, means we’re likely see M&A among the major satellite players in the coming year.

Had a new entrant won a lot of spectrum in the auction, they could have partnered with one of the satellite operators and potentially reduced some of the costs of building out a terrestrial network as well as gotten some extra spectrum. In the last few years, there has been a plenty of speculation over spectrum among MSS players, with operators including Iridium, Globalstar, ICO Global Communications, TerreStar Corp. and Mobile Satellite Venture are all trying to operate or build out networks.

Instead of launching a satellite only-business, these companies hope to take advantage of a combined terrestrial and satellite network to offer wireless services, most likely to carriers or to governments. But a shortages of spectrum for some players, plus a Justice Department willing to let satellite deals through, means many of them may team up rather than go it alone.

Tim Farrar of research firm TMF Associates says that, given the spectrum owned and the types of satellites launched, the likeliest deals would be between Inmarsat and MSV; ICO and TerreStar; and Globalstar and Iridium. 2008 will be the year to watch this sector.