AT&T, Apple, Verizon Wireless and Microsoft are some of the names popping up this week as speculation continues over the future of the iPhone – and anything that can compete with it.
USA Today started things off on Monday by reporting that Apple had initiated “high-level” talks to bring a CDMA version of the iPhone to Verizon’s network (story here). The paper cited “people close to the situation.”

The rumors come amidst a parallel discussion surrounding the renewal of Apple’s exclusive iPhone contract with AT&T, which expires next year.

Yesterday, The Wall Street Journal reported that Verizon and Microsoft are in talks regarding a new device, code-named "Pink," that would give the carrier a touchscreen, Windows-based phone that could compete with the iPhone (story here).

Some analysts speculate the talks are just standard business practice. Others, like Frank Dixon, vice president of research for In-Stat, say there might be cause for a raised eyebrow or two. “I don’t think there’s anything about this that is average, everyday stuff,” he says. “It’s typically always been the carrier driving the ship, not the device manufacturer. But this iPhone has created a much different model in the industry.” 

Regardless of what happens with the iPhone, the big players in these most recent rumors have their eye on ARPU and ARPU alone, Dixon says. “They don’t care about who wins the device war. What they care about is driving ARPU.”  

Asked what a post-iPhone AT&T will look like, the analyst says the company has a solid business plan, citing the carrier’s recent attempt to drive messaging by offering a wide range of devices with qwerty keyboards.

“I don’t think you’ll see some kind of post-iPhone morphing of AT&T … but one of the things they’re focusing on at AT&T is that two-thirds of their handsets are going to have qwerty keyboards. It’s got everything to do with messaging. Messaging drives bucket plans, and carriers like bucket plans.”

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