American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu reckons AT&T (ex-Cingular) may offer a subsidy to customers when it ships the iPhone in the US – while Vodafone moves to dismiss speculation that it will carry the device in Europe.

Wu had predicted the iPhone would be distributed in Europe by Vodafone. Pointing to that carriers 200 million subscriber base, he told investors: "Vodafone will likely be Apple's carrier in for its forthcoming iPhone."

However, representatives at Vodafone Ireland have since dismissed the notion as "pure speculation".

Meanwhile, AT&T chief operating officer Randall Stephenson confirmed the iPhone will ship as promised in the US, in June: "Our expectations are good. Our testing has been good. The iPhone is on target to launch in June," he said.

He also confirmed over one million customers have now expressed an interest in the device – and plan to purchase one when the internet device ships.

The level of interest has clearly got Wall Street excited. Shaw Wu is sufficiently confident in strong sales of the device to raise his price target on Apple stock to $145 per share, from $118 per share.

"Any weakness on iPhone delay rumours would be a buying opportunity," he said.
He also had some interesting notions to share on the iPhone launch strategy.

"Our sources indicate that a rebate or carrier subsidy for iPhone of $50-150 is under serious consideration. From AT&T's perspective, a rebate is a great marketing tool to entice a customer to sign up for two-year voice and data plans that cost $75-100 per month, meaning $1,800-2,400 in "guaranteed" bi-annual revenue," he predicted.

He also expects Apple will receive a bounty for each customer signing up for an iPhone at an Apple retail store, and is likely to claw back a percentage of the monthly fee.

"For the 2008 financial year, our new estimates are $31.1 billion in revenue and $4.15 in earnings per share," he wrote. That's up from an original prediction of $28.8 billion and $3.75 per share.

Microsoft meanwhile has begun its campaign to dismiss Apple's latest mobile, mainly because it won't run Microsoft Office.

"It's a great music phone, and I'm sure it will be fantastic and have an interesting user interface," Microsoft's Asia-Pacific head of smartphone strategy Chris Sorenson said, according to ZDnet Australia.

"However, it's a closed device that you cannot install applications on, and there's no support for Office documents. If you're an enterprise and want to roll out line of business applications, it's just not an option. Even using it as a heavy messaging device will be a challenge," the Microsoft executive said.