The coming release of Apple's ( AAPL) iPhone will give the tech titan more than a toe in the mobile phone market, according to one observer. The hotly anticipated iPod-inspired cell phone also will give Apple a nice handle on a partner's pocketbook, a Wall Street
analyst said Tuesday. The iPhone, due out from Apple in June, commands enough potential sales leverage that AT&T ( T) is willing to share some of the proceeds, says American Technology Research analyst Shaw Wu, in a note Tuesday. According to the two-pronged revenue sharing arrangement, AT&T will pay Apple a commission for each new customer and a cut of the customer's monthly payment, writes Wu. Not since Qualcomm ( QCOM) successfully sued phone makers to honor its patents and enter royalty agreements has a tech equipment shop of Apple's size managed to wring recurring fees out of the ever expanding wireless industry. Verizon Wireless, a joint venture between Verizon ( VZ) and Vodafone ( VOD), was offered an exclusive deal for the iPhone but said no to Apple's revenue sharing proposal in January. But AT&T may believe the half-inch thick iPhone -- with its large touch screen, music player, 2-megapixel camera and $500 price tag -- might be the big hit with gadget lovers. And that's a lucrative opportunity, given that Apple says 100 million iPods have been sold.
Depending on the iPhone features, Wu estimates that Apple could collect "low double-digits" in monthly fees through the arrangement. And since there is little additional cost to Apple, Wu figures the monthly revenue will be high margin, "in the 80% range." "We believe this recurring revenue stream is high quality and adds an additional degree of stability and predictability to Apple's financial results," writes Wu, who increased his share price target to $145 from $118 based on the juiciness of this deal. Apple shares fell 93 cents to $90.50 Tuesday.